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GIS for Local Government: Planning/Zoning

Brett Lucas Stewart Berry

Authors: Brett Lucas and Stewart Berry

Introduction

This article explores how to use GIS in local or Municipal Government. Many local governments are being asked to have a more transparent relationship with their citizens, which has been supported by technologies like geographic information systems (GIS) and other data visualization tools which allows communities to manipulate, analyze, and present data in a geographic form. GIS as a tool, can help local government decision-makers, policymakers, and others visualize data for a variety of applications.

This could include:

  • Analyze land use patterns, assess population growth and density, and identify development trends.
  • Create maps to visualize and monitor changes in land use, infrastructure, and services.
  • Identify potential areas for new development and redevelopment.
  • Examine how proposed developments might affect surrounding areas.

As a local government, utilizing GIS can help you better communicate that data through a visual component. Many local governments have found ways to leverage geospatial data across an organization in areas like building permit inspections, code enforcement, and street repair.

GIS Software for Government

Maptitude mapping software is an ideal software platform for local governments (especially smaller municipalities on a tight budget at only $695) to leverage geospatial data across an organization. Maptitude is a full featured desktop or online GIS and mapping software that gives you the tools, maps, and demographic data to analyze and understand how geography affects you and your community.

In this article we will demonstrate an application of Maptitude in the municipal government sector for land use planning and zoning.

Land Use Planning & Zoning – How to create a Zoning Layer

For this example, we will be using the City of Cheney, Washington. Cheney is a college town of 12,600 people located approximately 15 miles southwest of Spokane. One of the features that makes Maptitude so ideal for this task, is that when one uses the United States Country Package, a boundary file for the city limits (Census Place) is included, which makes for a great beginning point for creating a zoning layer.

  1. Start Maptitude, and select “New Map of the United States,” select “US City,” and select Cheney, WA. A map zoomed into Cheney Washington should appear on the desktop.
  2. Bring in building footprint data (available from Maptitude as a free add-on layer), and a parcel layer (in this particular example, a shapefile that was available from Spokane County public data portal). To bring in a new layer, click on the “Map Layers” icon in the toolbar. Click on “Add Layer,” to bring in a geospatial layer (point, line, or polygon) such as a shapefile. Other spatial file types are supported as well.
  3. With the Census Place layer as your working layer, create a selection set (select your city of interest) and export that selection out as a “Standard Geographic File,” so it is editable. When you export out the layer, name it “Zoning Layer.” Add that layer to the map. At this point, your map should look something like the map shown in Map 1.

Map 1 – Maptitude Workspace – Study Area.

  1. Next, you may want to turn on some aerial photography (three choices available in Maptitude) to aid in creating a zoning layer. At this point, zoom into your area of interest.

Map 2 – Maptitude Workspace – Study Area with aerial imagery turned on.

  1. Choose Dataview > Table > Modify to add some new fields to your zoning layer. Add a new field called Zoning (10 characters) and a second field called Zoning Description (50 characters). Change the field type to “character.”
  2. Turn on the “Layer Editing Toolbar” by clicking on Tools > Editing > Layer Editing Toolbar.
  3. Next select “add boundary edge” between where you might have two different zoning designations, add the line on the map, and then click on the “green light” icon in the “Layer Editing Toolbar.” At this point your workspace should look something like Map 3.

Map 3 – Maptitude Workspace – Study Area.

  1. Next, click on one of the new zoning areas using the “Info” icon. A “Dataview” dialogue box will appear. Scroll down to the end and fill in the blank fields with relevant information for your project. Your dialogue box should look something like the one shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 – Information box with the zoning and Zoning Description fields filled in.

  1. Next start adding in additional boundary lines for your community. As polygons start filling in, edit the “Dataview” dialogue box for other residential, commercial and industrial areas.
  2. Once you have clicked on other polygons with the “Info” icon, and filled in the requisite zoning information, one can create a thematic/color theme map. To create thematic map, click on the “Color Theme MapWizard.” A new dialogue box will appear. Follow the prompts to assign different colors to residential, commercial and industrial areas. At this point your workspace should look something like Map 4.

Map 4 – Maptitude Workspace showing different zoning districts as a color thematic map.

Conclusion

Once completed, you will have a zoning map for the community. The map can be saved as a pdf or jpg to be shared as a static map on a website, or it could be printed out poster size. Maps created within the desktop environment can also be uploaded and turned into an online interactive map via the Maptitude Online portal.

Maptitude is an extremely powerful software package for municipal governments for planning/zoning. For example, it allows adding additional fields to analyze household data for Blocks or Block Groups at the Zoning Designation level.

Next Steps

Learn more about Maptitude to see how you and your team can map the best locations for your business!

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