Revealing Detailed Property Tax information with MapOffice™

The Village of Woodridge, IL regularly receives questions from residents related to property taxes.   Whether this is related to understanding their tax bill or where their money is going, these questions can be answered more effectively with a visualization that residents can understand and that staff can easily explain.  It was this need that initiated the development of a custom layer for the village’s online mapping application, MapOffice™, which would allow a resident to see a full breakdown of their property tax information.

This custom layer was developed by the village’s Geographic Information System (GIS) department using tax information provided by DuPage County and Will County that consists of the tax rate owed to each taxing body by tax code.  This information was combined with parcel data that was also provided by the county and charted.  The end result is a custom layer that allows a resident to click on a parcel and see their total tax rate, as well as a chart that shows the composition of this total tax rate by the tax rate of each taxing body.  This allows users to easily find differences in taxing from one property to the next, and to understand how these differences are attributed to taxing districts.  This custom layer can also be used as a tool for village staff to reference when answering questions related to property taxes.

Business Intelligence Launches in Northbrook


The Village of Northbrook has recently launched the MapOffice Web Access tool called Business Intelligence.  Business Intelligence is a tool that allows users to filter and display live data from community or custom databases. 

Three attributes of Business Intelligence, filtering, visualization, and live data, make it a very powerful tool.  Business Intelligence allows users to visualize data on a map by plotting that data by address or XY coordinates.  Many times, community databases or software do not have great ways to display the wealth of data they hold.  Business Intelligence helps solve this problem by connecting to those databases and displaying the data on MapOffice so users can gain further incite about the data or look for trends.

When looking for trends it is sometimes necessary to manipulate how you view the data.  Business Intelligence permits the user to filter the data by date and/or a field within the data.  For example, Northbrook has set up a connection to a custom home foreclosure database that allows users to filter foreclosures by date and the foreclosure status.  Now the user can narrow the data that is displayed to show only what they are interested in.

Finally, Business Intelligence offers live connections to the databases.  This can be extremely powerful as users can view and analyze data held in the database as it is updated without having to wait for data to be uploaded to MapOffice.

The Village of Northbrook looks forward to taking advantage of this useful and powerful tool by connecting to community databases and software such as FireHouse, an ERP system, and many others to come.

Northbrook Maps Fiber Network US GIS

​The Village of Northbrook has many utility systems and features that it maintains and tracks.  One such system is the fiber optic network.  Fiber optic cable has been laid throughout the Northbrook to provide fast and secure internet and communication for both Village and other governmental agency buildings.  While not all of the fiber network is owned and maintained by the Village it is necessary to keep track of its location to prevent damage during construction work or for repairs and maintenance.  For these reasons GIS was asked to assist in entering, maintaining, and providing maps for locates.  To complete this project the GIS specialists combined imported CAD data from the Village and field notes from the JULIE locator to enter the most up to date fiber location information possible.  After being reviewed by Public Works staff, a custom overlay was created and added to MapOffice Web Access detailing overhead vs underground, status, and ownership of the lines.  Also included are the locations of hand holes, poles, and splice points.  By making this map available on the MapOffice web application, staff in the field doing JULIE locates can easily pull up the information on their field laptops for use as well as send updates and additions using the ‘Markup’ tool from the field.  Additionally, maintaining this utility network in GIS provides the Northbrook IT department with a clear picture of where their important fiber optic assets are located across the Village, and can be used to help locate outages if they occur.

Visualization of the Medical Marijuana State Law on a Local Community

On January 1, 2014, the state of Illinois legalized the use and sale of medical marijuana.  Numerous area based regulations were included as part of the law, forcing local governments that are considering medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation centers within their community to look at each case within a spatial context.  To assist with this type of analysis, the Village of Schiller Park, IL Community Development and Administration departments called upon the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department to help visualize how these different regulations looked within the community and, as a result, where potential dispensaries and cultivation centers where legally allowed to locate. 

The restrictions dictated by the law are as follows, a cultivation center may not be within 2,500 feet of the property line of a public or private school, day care center, or an area zoned for residential use.  A dispensary may not be located within 1,000 feet of the property line of a public or private, day care center and may not be located in a house, apartment, condominium, or an area zoned for residential use.  Schiller Park was interested in seeing what areas in its village fall within and outside of these 1,000 and 2,500 foot restriction areas. Combining local knowledge from the Village staff, the regulations stated in the law, and existing GIS data, map products were generated showing the two types of restrictions as they applied to the village.  This was done by mapping the facility locations and property lines, then creating two separate buffers that correspond to the two types of regulations for each facility type.   Any area that fell within the buffers is restricted and any area that fell outside the buffers is open for consideration.

With the assistance of GIS, Community Development and Administration staff now have an easy to understand, visual tool to assist them with answering questions from residents and other interested parties that may come up in light of this fairly new law.

GIS Promotes the Village’s Public Art Display

Public art displays are a popular addition to many communities during the summer months. Generally, a particular theme for the overall display is chosen and local artists and businesses craft the artwork that will be publically displayed at select locations throughout the community. For the summer of 2015, the Environmental Commission of the Village of Glen Ellyn, IL presented Bike It!, an outdoor exhibit using bicycles as pieces of art.  To help alert residents of the locations of the bikes, while also showing off the artwork of local residents and businesses, the village’s Geographic Information System (GIS) department created a story map for display on the village website.

A story map is an interactive map that is viewed online and provides the viewer with the ability to interact with the map elements. When viewing the Bike It! story map, a resident can click on the location of the bike, bring up a picture of the display, and also get information about the artist or artists that created the piece. The resident can also zoom in to a particular bike location by clicking on a picture of the corresponding bike on the bottom ribbon of the map, displaying more information on what other features are around that bike. This provides more information visually than could be gleaned from a traditional, static map product.  Moving forward, this type of interactive story map will be a valuable addition for promoting and providing information for other community events.

Celebrating the Fourth of July


The Village of Northbrook has enjoyed a Fourth of July celebration every year since 1949.  Events include a parade, pancake breakfast, rubber ducky race, and of course, fireworks.  Past years the Village had put together static maps displaying the parade route.  This year, GIS was contacted to create a dynamic, interactive, online map to promote the celebration and provide attendees with more event information.

GIS worked with the Public Works Department and the Fourth of July Planning Committee to create a map that not only displays the locations of events but provides information.  Users can click on an event to open a pop-up window with event details and times as well as a picture from last year’s event.  Users can also take advantage of hyperlinks to go directly to the website of the event host for even more details.

Northbrook Fire Department wanted to use the opportunity of an interactive map to display information regarding public safety for the events.  GIS mapped the locations of emergency medical services, fireworks restricted areas, and available fireworks parking. 

The interactive online map was a great option for promoting the celebration to attendees as well as supplying them with up to date information in a very accessible and easy to use format.

Highland Park Launches Community Portal


The City of Highland Park made a recent addition to the main page of the website; Property Search, also known as Community Portal. Highland Park has long been directing the public to MapOffice Public for their information needs but now the public has another site at just the click of a mouse.

Community Portal makes looking up property information quick and easy.  On the front page of the Highland Park webpage is a "Property Search" widget that directs the public to enter an address for more information.  When an address is entered in, Community Portal launches itself with a "Property Summary" landing page. Multiple tabs of information are provided within Community Portal and it is completely customizable based on the community’s needs. The idea behind Community Portal that makes it so different from MapOffice is that not all information needs to be displayed on a map such as garbage pickup day/time, rather just text information is needed which is where Community Portal steps in. It is the simplicity and ease of use that makes Community Portal so beneficial to Highland Park.

As Highland Park begins to understand what information the public is looking for, Community Portal will be developed further around that. As stated earlier, it is completely customizable based on the communities needs and that is how Highland Park will advance itself in providing need to know information to the public. More to come with Community Portal!

Using GIS to Assist in the Bid Process

​The Des Plaines Fire Department is on duty 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.  Challenges providing emergency services change with the seasons.  One of the largest hindrances to Fire Fighters in the winter is snow.  When Mother Nature pounds the city with snow for months the snow piles grow exponentially, as residents shovel driveways and municipalities plow roads.  Fire hydrants along the road easily become covered with snow, which makes them much harder to find in an emergency situation.  While Public Works, the Fire Department, and volunteer residents work to keep the hydrants clear, when a heavy snowfall occurs it is nearly impossible to keep all the hydrants visible. 

The Des Plaines City Council approved a proposal to add markers (5 foot tall poles with a flag on top) to fire hydrants to make them more visible in the winter months.  Fire Chief Wax decided that initially they wanted to mark all hydrants in cul-de-sacs and on roads with 4 lanes, as these locations collect the most snow. 


The Fire Department utilized GIS to determine how many hydrants were in these specific locations.  Cul-de-sacs and 4 lane roads were located in GIS and then a simple search of hydrants within a specified distance was performed.  By utilizing GIS and GIS data the Fire Department was able to give a very accurate estimation of the number of markers that were going to be needed.  The actual number needed was smaller than originally estimated, so the project will come in under budget.  Mapbooks of the hydrant locations were created and given to project bidders to aid in their bid estimate and will be utilized again when placing the markers on the hydrants.  By teaming together the Fire and GIS Departments were able to provide an quick and efficient bidding process, which in the end will benefit the city and its residents.

Publicly Available Tree Inventory


The emergence of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has become one of the most costly events to affect the Village of Buffalo Grove in recent years. The EAB is an exotic beetle, whose larvae feed on the inner bark of Ash Trees, which prevent the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients. Eventually, every Ash Tree needs to be removed in the village. Some residents are requesting to treat the Ash Trees on their property, but the success rate of that treatment is not very high.

One of the common questions residents have is, "Is my tree an Ash tree?" Using the newly available Public Tree Inventory, residents can now view every tree in the village using MapOffice. As you can see in the map above, residents have the ability to view Ash Trees, Other Trees, Removals, and EAB Resident Treatment locations. If the user clicks on any of the trees, a table will appear that explains the last maintenance work that was completed for that tree location, as well as the details of the tree itself. Without the help of GIS, residents would have to rely on their own knowledge of the various tree species to learn about the trees adjacent to their property.


GIS Consortium 3D Mapping Potential


A recent objective of the technical staff in the GIS Consortium (GISC) has been to investigate the potential for 3D mapping and to be sure the GISC’s data model continues to advance and support these new technologies easily.  3D mapping in GIS has been possible for some time now, but it has always been a matter of the ease of doing so.  The value of the 3D products must provide a benefit greater than the time and software costs required to create them.


The GISC’s software provider, ESRI, has an extension called 3D Analyst which provides the 3D mapping opportunities by rendering GIS data that has elevation, height, or level information assigned to it.  A new addition to their suite, called CityEngine, provides for texturing of data to make it appear even more real if needed, but much more time is required to add those components to the map.  These zoning and tree infestation images highlight the kind of maps that can be created and analysis that can be performed using 3D Analyst.  It is quite clear how valuable the third dimension of information is to communicate the volume of infrastructure, natural or manmade, that exists in an area and the impact they have on their surroundings.  GIS is a decision support tool and 3D obviously has a part to play for the GIS Consortium member communities.