Zoning variances are a frequent request by a community’s residents, so it is important to be able to access historical variances to verify whether or not the request was submitted in a previous year. Since none of the variance information was available digitally, staff in the Community Preservation and Development department would have to browse through an old file cabinet looking at typed-up index cards describing the variance. Searching for these records would add to the time that a resident would spend waiting to go through the zoning variance application process. GIS was chosen to improve the ability of accessing these historical records.
The Community, Preservation, and Development department provided to GIS a newly created Excel spreadsheet that contains all variances dating back to 1980. Within this sheet, all the necessary information that was found on the old index cards was copied over. This spreadsheet was then connected to the city’s GIS MapOffice Advanced program. Now, all the user has to do is search by an address and any historical variances at that property or in the neighborhood surrounding it will be viewable with all pertinent information available. There is also a time option available when making the query, so any given time period, whether it is a month or a particular year, can be viewed at the click of a mouse. By having this new data connection available through GIS, it reduces the amount of time the community staff spends looking up historical information, expediting the zoning variance application process.