Nov 95 Level of Govt: Local. Function: Land Use Planning Problem/situation: There was no way for most database users in the city of Raleigh and Wake County, N.C., to access multiple levels of land-use information for analysis and mapping. Solution: City and county GIS departments initiated a joint project and developed a Multi-access Parcel System. Jurisdiction: Raleigh, N.C., Wake County, N.C., Lee County, Fla. Vendors: IBM, Graphic Data Systems Inc. Contact: Charles Friddle, Wake County geographic information systems director 919/856-6375. Colleen Sharpe, geographic information systems director, Raleigh 919/890-3636.
By Bill McGarigle Contributing Writer Until recently, there was no simple way for most database users in the city of Raleigh and Wake County, N.C., to access multiple levels of land-use information for analysis and mapping. Wake County GIS Director Charles Friddle explained that "departments needing information from the assessor's file could access attribute data via the IBM mainframe, using their PCs and Graphic Data Systems Inc. (GDS) software, but were not able to link that data with the graphics. To bring up a map described by the data required a separate search from a GIS workstation. All that took time." In response, city and county GIS departments initiated a joint project with system supplier GDS to find a solution. The result was the Multi-access Parcel System (MAPS) - a software program that Friddle said "gives us a quantum leap in system accessibility." Administrators and staff alike agree that MAPS has significantly cut the time needed to research records, eliminated much data-storage redundancy, and provided real-time data communication between municipal and county agencies. BACKGROUND For Raleigh and Wake County, the capability for rapid, simplified access to land-use information was a much-needed tool. Already home to 500,000 people and growing by 3 percent annually, the county is attracting increasing numbers of high-tech industries in electronics and biotechnology. Keeping up with the combined urban and industrial growth requires city and county agencies to track approximately 14,000 new construction starts a year; research the county's 180,000-plus parcels and identify each one over 10 acres to determine suitability for commercial and industrial development, provide maps in response to requests for sites with specific geographic criteria; and scramble to find locations for new schools. In addition, subdivisions, zoning changes, and development of new parcels currently produce between 6,500 and 10,000 land transactions annually, all requiring timely appraisal. Part of the difficulty in accessing information, explained Raleigh GIS Manager Colleen Sharpe, also stemmed from agencies using different software applications. "The one used by the county assessor to access the mainframe looked completely different from ours over here. When our employees went over to Wake County, they needed to know how to use the computer one way. When their people came over here, they were looking at another computer and a different application." Although the county and the city had been developing applications, adding information to the databases, and regularly upgrading the system since 1989, the GIS departments determined that the rate of growth and land-use changes in the county required larger numbers of staff to have a faster, simpler method of accessing various databases from desktop PCs. The GIS departments discussed the problems collectively and began looking at ideas other state and local agencies were using. Through GDS, they learned that Lee County, Fla., had a comparable IBM mainframe, was using the same GIS software, and had the same needs. Friddle pointed out that Lee County had also been working on a solution. "They had developed the connection between the IBM mainframe and the digital processor that was running the GIS system. We were able to take what they did and modify it for our needs. It took a lot of work. There were similarities, but there were also many differences. It gave us a place to start." The two departments subsequently proposed a joint project to develop their own program, in concert with GDS. The MAPS project, as