County mulls mapping service
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Jun 21, 2001
Budget-strapped Island County, Wash. composed of eight islands on Puget
Sound about 25 miles north of Seattle is testing a Web-based, interactive
mapping service instead of using a more expensive in-house set-up.
The deal for Syncline Inc.'s MapCiti service would enable the county
(www.islandcounty.net) to offer geographic
information system data to the public and manage records internally. Using
MapCiti, government workers can upload GIS data directly to the company's
Michael Schechter, the county's assistant planner, said it would be
too difficult and expensive to operate a GIS database in-house. He estimated
that start-up costs would be about $100,000, not including $40,000 to $50,000
annually for a dedicated employee. MapCiti provides the same service for
about a fifth of that cost, he said.
The county, which has a population of 71,000, provides static zoning
and aerial maps on the Internet, but Schechter called that application a
stopgap measure. With MapCiti, he said county planners could overlay different
sets of information and instantly do queries. Also, he said they would save
money on developing and duplicating paper maps, be able to quickly send
out notices to residents affected by proposed developments and cut training
He said the planning department often helps people find information
about properties or their communities, which takes up staff members' time.
With the interactive service, residents with Internet access "will be able
to get that information at home, process it and come to us with really good
Most residents live on the county's two largest islands, Whidbey and
Camano. Five of the islands are basically uninhabited. But when it comes
to mapping, the county has to consider 200 miles of shoreline, marine and
wildlife habitats, salt-water intrusion problems, archaeological sites and
bald eagle nesting areas, he said. For the trial period, Schechter said
the county would focus on a community called Freeland, which is being rezoned
to control its growth. When maps are posted on the site, Freeland residents,
who he said are very involved and technologically savvy, would provide feedback
on whether MapCiti was useful.
County officials intend to decide by the end of the year whether to
continue with MapCiti, he said.