Ever hear of GIS? It stands for Geographic Information System. I was intrigued by Hampton district supervisor candidate John Lesinski’s remarks at last month’s forum supporting county implementation of such a system, so I did a bit of research on the Internet and talked to several county officials.
A GIS involves digitizing the county’s tax map information and putting it on the Internet. That information is currently in tax maps in the commissioner of the revenue’s office. Presently, one has to go to that office, ask to see the books, figure out how to use them, and oftentimes deal with insufficient or incomplete information.
County officials and informed citizens I spoke with shared one conclusion as to the potential benefits of GIS: It will do nothing but encourage development of the county — not the village-centered or commercial/industrial zone-centered development provided for in the county’s Comprehensive Plan, but development more along the lines of what has happened in Loudoun and Fairfax counties.
How does it do this? Easier access. With such a system online a housing developer can sit in the comfort of his or her home and access all Rappahannock land data online, a task much, much easier and less cumbersome than utilizing the tax maps. As one county official told me, “Currently, you have to go to the commissioner’s office and look up this data. Historically and presently this made and now makes it more difficult to develop land in the county.”
Any improvement in the data quality from a GIS? No. The data provided by the GIS will be data from the tax maps. We all know this data is faulty in a number of ways. The GIS will provide only the same faulty data as the tax maps.
How about the costs? The GIS’s hefty price tag, to be paid by us taxpayers, is currently estimated at $150,000 to $200,000. This is just for initial installation costs — data input and the software and hardware for the system). It does not include the costs to run, update, pay staff and maintain it.
How do people around the county feel about this? In addition to the system facilitating developers’ work and the huge expense of the system, county officers have heard from many taxpayers opposed to this system who don’t want their land data put on the Internet for all the world to see (literally!).
I urge Hampton district voters to cast their ballots for Mr. Jay Miller, whom I believe will work for what’s beneficial for Rappahannock County in terms of preserving what we all treasure about our county while supporting more affordable initiatives to encourage growth that is compatible with our Comprehensive Plan.