said Blair Deaver, a GIS programmer-analyst with the consulting firm. Using this data, a site selector exploring a potential location can see what other types of businesses are in that area.

Two Preliminary Tools

High Desert already released two applications that allow city staff to query information about individual properties through a browser interface. "[One application] will zoom to the tax lot, so you can see all the mapping information," Deaver said, noting that it also shows all county taxation information, such as the property's mailing address and value.

A second tool helps the city identify property owners it must notify about a pending change to a nearby parcel, such as a zoning variance. The user selects the parcel, defines an area around it -- perhaps 300 feet -- and receives information on all properties within that zone. "They can export that information into an Excel spreadsheet and print out the letter and labels," Collins said.

When the new application is ready, city employees working with businesses will search properties based on specific requirements. "Say somebody says, 'I need a 10-acre parcel. I need to make sure water's close, sewer's close [and] maybe I need a railroad spur,'" Collins explained. "[City employees] can query this database, and it will pull up those prospective properties that fit those criteria."

Industrial businesses want that sort of information, of which Nampa has a lot already mapped, Bunderson said. People seeking sites for stores or restaurants need other specifics, such as the number of homes in the area, growth rates, traffic counts and upcoming transportation improvements that could drive more traffic to the area.

The new tool will provide information about sites much faster than gathering data and maps from multiple sources. Instead of taking several days to assemble a package, the application will perform the task in a matter of minutes or hours, Bunderson said.

The system will produce attractive, professional-looking presentations that highlight the information site selectors need, Bunderson said.

"It's hard to get someone's attention without good packaging if you've got a company that might be shopping several states," he observed. "I think that will make quite a difference in how many bites we get from some of the responses we send."

The application could also hone in on eligible parcels that a manual search might miss, including properties not on the market, but whose owners might be willing to consider offers. In addition, it might point out smaller, adjoining parcels a buyer could assemble to make one suitable lot, Bunderson said.

Eventually Bunderson would like the GIS to interface with the databases of commercial and industrial properties kept by local real-estate firms. Though Nampa-area realtors have a Multiple Listings Service for homes, the area has no comprehensive clearing-house for business properties, he said. "Our interest is in adding visibility to all the properties for sale, and making better connections to the information on our Web site."

What Can We Give Out?

Before offering the application to users outside city government, Nampa officials must determine how much information to provide, and under what conditions.

"We're talking with our attorney about what information we can or can't give out," Collins said, adding the city is also trying to determine what it can charge if the city imposes fees.

The city might first provide the tool to selected users, such as realtors and engineering firms, on a subscription basis. The city may then offer a portion of that information to the public free of charge, Collins said. "Or we may make the whole thing free," he added. "We haven't looked at everything we can and can't do."

All the data that supports the application is public information, so one

Merrill Douglas  |  Contributing Writer