Parcel data is hot real estate

User of Parcel Data in New York State: A Reconnaissance Study

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Similar to cells in organisms, parcels of land are the basic building blocks of land-oriented systems that convey a wealth of information. It just depends on who’s looking at it.

The Center for Technology in Government recently released a study sponsored by the New York State Office of Real Property Services about the fundamental properties and characteristics of parcel data. It also looked at the flow of parcel data in the state. The study is expected to help the state agency develop future strategies in better understanding and effectively using such data.

Officials from CTG, an applied research center affiliated with the State University of New York at Albany, interviewed 35 people from local and state governments, private companies and nonprofit organizations in New York.

“The first question we asked is: What is the definition of parcel data?” said Meghan Cook, a CTG program manager. “They thought we were joking but we’re not because we wanted to know how they perceived it.”

Cook said many public- and private-sector organizations rely on parcel data for their needs. Organizations essentially build on the work initially conducted by a municipality’s property assessors, who appraise the value of real property.

She said some organizations will then conduct “ground truthing” on that data, meaning they try to validate it. Organizations will then collect additional characteristics about a parcel of land that are relevant for their needs.

For example, transportation officials seek data regarding roads, bridges, tunnels, power grids, water and sewer infrastructure, and telephone and cable infrastructure. Emergency management officials want data about the types of structures built on properties and owner and occupant information. Other groups may want to know a parcel's physical geographic characteristics.

The study states that most users would like a single authoritative source for parcel data and online access to such data in a variety of formats. Cook said New York has a Geographic Information System Clearinghouse and Data Sharing Cooperative, which is a publicly accessible resource of GIS data, including parcel data.

Although parcel data is used in a wide range of activities, the study indicates that nearly every individual interviewed wants better-quality data. “Nobody’s saying that the data isn’t good,” Cook said. “It’s just that there’s so many different uses of this data…that there just doesn’t seem to be enough. They have to go out and find it.”

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