Buckingham GIS Is Online

Published 12:12 pm Thursday, November 13, 2014

BUCKINGHAM — An interactive system that allows Internet users to view parcels of property in Buckingham, along with their boundary lines, owner, size, location, and zoning designations, is now available to anyone with an Internet connection.

The County’s new Geographic Information System (GIS) maps are online for public use at buckingham.interactivegis.com, which is also linked to the County’s website at www.buckinghamcountyva.org.

Months ago, County supervisors unanimously voted to authorize staff to continue the process in bringing the maps online for public use.

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“The County continuously receives calls from real estate agents, surveyors, and citizens that live in and outside of the county who are requesting Geographic Information System maps. Most localities provide tax maps in GIS format. GIS mapping would also aid the commissioner of the revenue in providing updates to tax maps and providing general tax information to those that inquire…It has multiple zoning uses,” reads a 2013 letter to County supervisors and County Administrator Rebecca S. Carter from Zoning Administrator and Planner Rebecca Cobb and IT Manager Jamie Shumaker.

Explaining the concept of GIS, Cobb noted, “The most simplest answer is that it’s a layer of maps. So, you can take a road map, a topographic map and you basically squish them all together and it gives you one view of an area.”

After logging on to the GIS homepage, a user must first select the option indicating they have read and agree to the terms listed on the site at the top of the page under guest access. After selecting guest access, hundreds of pages of tax map information, zoning maps, road maps, satellite imagery, that, months ago, could only be accessed by visiting three or four separate offices, is now at the fingertips of the public.

There are numerous tools and map layers associated with the system, says Cobb. One can view parcel boundaries, parcel ID’s, a landowner’s name and address, and number of acres in a parcel by using the search tool or zooming in on the map to a specific area and selecting the parcel. One can also see markers which depict homes and other structures on the property, says Cobb.

Map layers that one can view by selecting one of the blue tabs on the top of the page include aerial satellite Bing data, roads, E-911 addresses, streams, rivers, railroads, and, most notably, how property across the county is zoned, with each parcel being colored according to what its zoning classification is.

“If you want just the basic [information], then you can just do your search and it’ll give you the basic acres, property name, tax map number…If you want the zoning information and/or the aerial photos, then you have to go under the map layers,” she explained.

Under search tools, one can search for property by E-911 address or road name, owner name or parcel ID, or by acreage.

“…We have not included the assessed values…They’d still need to contact [the] commissioner of the revenue or go to the clerk’s office and look that information up,” Cobb explained.

Once a parcel is selected, there are numerous tools on the upper-right corner of the page that users can employ to retrieve parcel information (the square with the blue “i”), or measure a selected area by acreage, feet, miles, meters, or yards (the square with the ruler).

Cobb says that the length measurement tool can be useful if someone, say a landowner or prospective landowner, has questions about how long a parcel is or how much road frontage is along the property. While the measurement isn’t 100 percent accurate, she says it’ll give a rough idea.

“So, if they’re looking at a large parcel and they want to divide a portion of it and they want to…divide off five acres from this 50-acre parcel, about where would those lines be,” Cobb said of the area measurement tool.

The zoom feature, she said, allows a user to see where homes and structures are situated on specific parcels, along with boundary lines.

The user can select a specific piece of property and view the landowner’s name, address, and the number of acres in the parcel, she noted.

“For me and for my department, it’s queries,” Cobb stated in 2013 regarding other uses of the system. “Here, in the turquoise areas, I did a search that said show me all the properties in the county that are equal to or greater than 300 acres. And so then it highlights that.”

There are errors in the system, Cobb noted of what she termed the ever-evolving project.

“We do want people to let us know about [errors]…This is accurate to the best of our ability at this point, so, yes, if people find errors, then we want them to get in touch with us…Call the commissioner of the revenue because the information that is put into this has come from the commissioner of the revenue.”

“It makes thing so much easier and faster, where, before, we were piecing maps together. You really do get a whole perspective when you’re looking at the GIS map. You can really zoom out and look at the whole thing. You can zoom back in to specific parcels. It does give you a faster way to do a whole perspective plan of the county, as well as individual areas. It’s just so much information right at your fingertips,” the planner added.

And those who don’t have access to the Internet or a computer can look up information like they’ve always done, she explained, noting that the old ways of retrieving the information are still in place by visiting or calling her office, the clerk’s office, and the commissioner of the revenue’s office.

“We’re just trying to provide a…service in an easier way for those that do have Internet access and can do a one-stop-shop without having to call multiple offices,” Cobb related.

When the system was first announced, Carter related to supervisors, “I am just proud that this has been on one of my, I guess you say bucket lists, of the good things for our county. We have such a large area, and we’re always piecing together maps, and piecing together pictures. Now we have a snapshot of our whole county, and you can pull in everything.”