A Geographic Information System (GIS) in the simplest terms is a computerized mapping system that allows its user to perform complex analysis and mapping.
A More Detailed Description of GIS:
A GIS combines the geography and cartography of paper maps with the power of a database. A GIS as such is a program set up for the creation, analyzing, displaying, manipulation, and mapping of geographic features and information. Unlike conventional paper maps a GIS connects geographic features to databases that contain an abundance of information that aides users of a variety of disciplines in their decision making processes. It also provides a way for high quality maps to be produced and analysis to be done.
In order for a GIS to work it requires data input. The data in a GIS is created in what are called GIS Layers. Each layer represents a group of common information. Some examples of GIS Layers that are used in the GIS of Spanish Fork include: zoning, the general plan, elementary school boundaries, voting precincts, polling locations, parks, school properties, churches, property lines, county parcels, water lines, sewer lines, PI lines, existing trails, planned trails, airphotos of the city, roads, railroads, and much more.
ESRI, a company that has created one of the leading GIS programs, defines GIS as:
A collection of computer hardware, software, and geographic data for capturing, storing, updating, manipulating, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information.
How is GIS being used in our City?
There are many ways that GIS is being used in our city but here are a few examples:
Building Setbacks - A citizen wants to add a shed or an addition to their house but is not sure how to go about it. They come to the city planner for help. The planner uses GIS to view the aerials and measure the distance from the house to the property line to ensure they are meeting the setbacks and thus is able to aid the citizen in determining how best to make it work if it can be done.
City Council and Other Meetings - GIS is used in almost every City Council, Planning Commission, Development Review Committee, and Economic Development Meeting to aide the various committees and councils in seeing what is taking place in the area to make better decisions, help citizens in the area make points regarding what is taking place in the area, and help all see what a development, site plan, or anything else will look like in that area.
Voting Maps - GIS is used every 2 years during elections to update the Voting Precinct Maps to aide citizens in knowing what precinct they are in and where they are supposed to go and vote.
Planning and Zoning - GIS is used to update the Zoning Map and the General Plan Map as changes are made to it and new developments arrive. It is also an important tool in helping the City Planner know what he needs to know to help planning within the city.
Utilities - Every time our utilities change - new pipes go in, a water main break or a sewer backup occurs and they need to be dug up and repaired, or any other changes occur to our utilities they are located using GPS (GPS meaning Global Positioning System - a way to get an accurate geographic location of a feature using satellite technology). Then those points are connected and our utility system is drawn into the GIS. Thus it enables all to see where our utilities are within our city and make the decision making process easier for any development that occurs in the city. It is often used to help plan how utilities will be installed as well.
Economic Development - GIS is a tremendous tool for economic development and plays a big role. It is used for anything from determining who owns a property to what is the best way to get utilities to a site to make it more economically viable in attracting businesses to our city. It is also used to prepare maps to help businesses understand the surroundings of a site.
Addresses - GIS is used to keep track of Addresses and help determine what addresses should be for an area. It is used to help citizens, developers, real estate agents, title companies, and many others to understand addresses, zoning, and many other pieces of information regarding properties.
City Departments, Groups, and Organizations - Because of the information contained in a GIS and its powerful analysis tools it is used time and time again to provide city departments and other organizations with information they need to accomplish the tasks that they need to.
This is a small list of how GIS is being used in the city. There are many other ways GIS is being used and can be used to help citizens of Spanish Fork and others. If you would like more information feel free to contact us using the information provided.