CPC Learns about Town's GIS

Written by Administrator
 | Friday, 18 January 2008 07:39
The next time you have a question about lot lines, property values, or acreage, look no further than your home computer. The next time you have a question about lot lines, property values, or acreage, look no further than your home computer.

The town's Geographic Information System [GIS] is only a click away. Deputy Assessor Dick Finnegan gave the Community Preservation Committee a brief tutorial last Thursday morning. Finnegan said $13,800 of Community Preservation Act funds were used to get the system up and running.

"This has been a long time coming," Finnegan said.

Applied Geographics of Boston digitized the town maps and photos supplied by MassGIS, according to Finnegan. He said the town and two companies have been able to link GIS with the assessment database. This information can be accessed by logging on to the town website at and clicking on the link to GIS listed on the left side of the webpage under town departments. The site allows users to view maps of parcels, see snapshots of homes and print property record cards.

"It's catching on like wildfire," Finnegan said. "You can look up a parcel or go directly to a town-wide map and then pop from parcel to parcel."

Finnegan walked the CPC through two features of the GIS site�parcel search and interactive mapping. A certain property can be found by typing in the parcel identification number or the street address. Finnegan used 10 Washington St., the address of the Exxon gas station in Hall's Corner, as an example. On the left side of the screen a map of the property and surrounding lots is shown. The specific property requested is outlined in red. On the right side of the page, information such as the property's assessed value, the acreage and date and price of the last sale are listed.

"The mere ability to highlight parcels is great because many parcels are hard to identify," Finnegan said.

CPC member Pat Loring said the GIS must be helpful for realtors and people looking to purchase a home. Joe Grady, conservation administrator and member of the GIS committee, said online access to this information cuts down on the workload for town employees.

"It's easier for us at Town Hall because before we had to photocopy and highlight a lot. This is a real timesaver. They can access this at home at 10 at night," Grady said.

An aerial photo of a parcel or a portion of town taken by MassGIS can also be found on the town's GIS site. Finnegan said the photos were taken in 2003. CPC member George Wadsworth asked if the owner of a property or any information about the interior of a home were listed on the site. Finnegan said the Board of Selectmen did not want the owners' information available online. He said interior descriptions like the style of home and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms can be found on the assessors' online page.

If a person using the GIS webpage wants to print information they have found on the site, Finnegan said the print icon on the page must be used. This prompts Adobe Acrobat to load, generating a map of the parcel followed by a summary of the property's information and a map of the entire town. Finnegan said people can save the information on the site as a pdf file and send the attachment to another person.

You don't have to know the exact street address of a parcel to access data. The other option under parcel identification is the ability to click on the town-wide map. Finnegan said clicking on the magnifying glass tool allows the user to draw a box around a specific area of town to narrow a search. Finnegan said the GIS information and the assessing data are updated annually.

The second feature available on the GIS website is called interactive mapping. This allows a user to view a map of a parcel and add additional layers such as wetlands, easements and bodies of water. These layers can be turned on and off by clicking on a box to the right of the map. Planning Director and member of the GIS Committee Christine Stickney cautioned that the information contained in the layers was not 100 percent accurate. For example, she said the wetlands that pop up are based on an aerial photo taken by MassGIS, not the town's records.

"This site becomes a framework for a host of different layers," Finnegan said.

Finnegan and Sitckney said additional layers could be added in the future such as FEMA's coastal area maps and school bus routes. Stickney said additional layers would require additional funding. She said one way to generate revenue was established at Annual Town Meeting with the approval of the GIS revolving fund. When an engineer requests a file, a fee will be charged and that money will go back into the revolving fund.