Mapping the Way to Easy Dining

Communities are hungry for revenue and one of the many venues that attract visitors and dollars are restaurants. Because restaurants regularly change in communities, guides must be modified. The Village of Morton Grove, IL has over 50 restaurants within its boundaries. To help them update their restaurant guide this spring, the Morton Grove Community Development department called upon Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to create a restaurant map.  

Community Development gave GIS staff a list of restaurants in a sequential order that follows how they will be listed in the hand-out. Staff used those addresses to generate a map of each restaurant based on the numbering system that was provided.  By utilizing GIS, Community Development staff offered the public an easy, visual way to see the location of any restaurant in Morton Grove and better understand their dining options.

Private Community Sign Ordinance Support

Enforcing a sign ordinance in a community can be taxing for any local government, but with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a single staff member can implement a policy for an entire municipality. The Village of Lincolnshire, IL recently began reviewing and classifying signs in the village as “compliant” or “non-compliant”, which allows them to be tracked and symbolized in a map environment so the status is easily viewed. 

A sign ordinance in a community promotes public health, safety, and welfare while also establishing aesthetics that distinguish it from other communities. Sign ordinances benefit the private sector and help them be more successful by ensuring their messages are clearly communicated to the public. 

The Village adopted these principles in their sign ordinance. In the image below, dots represent the exact location of signs in question, and are symbolized by their compliancy status. GIS built on past work by the village and integrated new information, such as their compliancy status.   Within the village’s interactive, browser-based map application, MapOffice™, each sign is represented by a dot, with the option to navigate the user to a Microsoft® Word document that tracks every private sign in the village. Whether to check compliance or update information, this efficient practice can be applied to many other environmental or zoning ordinances, thereby making the process of checking the status of these items easier for village staff to accomplish. 

Improving Census Boundary Information with Digital Mapping

Each year the U.S. Census Bureau asks local governments to participate in the Boundary Annexation Survey (BAS).  This survey gives the U.S. Census Bureau the most current geographic boundaries of the area the municipality serves. For many, like the Village of Woodridge, IL, it is an excellent opportunity to improve population estimates.

In previous years, this review process was manual, and municipalities used paper and colored pencils to demarcate their boundaries and neighboring borders. They had to note down any annexations, de-annexations, or boundary changes that occurred since the last BAS was conducted. 

Today, the Census Bureau encourages digital submissions of BAS materials using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Instead of listing and drawing modifications by hand, GIS tools are used to quickly identify changes between village boundaries and census boundaries.  Using GIS for BAS submissions has benefitted the village in meaningful ways. It’s saved a great deal of staff time and effort, provided richer detail in identifying changes, and ultimately improved the population estimates provided by the Census Bureau.

Using GIS to Audit Franchise Fee Addresses

The Village of Woodridge, IL is asked periodically by Comcast Corporation to verify customer addresses. This is done in accordance with the Municipal Franchise Fee Review, which helps municipalities confirm that they are receiving the proper franchise fees from Comcast. 

Working with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the Village of Woodridge quickly audited the address lists provided by Comcast rather than manually comparing each address to their enterprise management system. GIS compared the village’s address database against two customer address lists provided by Comcast, saving village staff numerous hours of manual review. 

Even though the first address list from Comcast included customers who live in Woodridge, annexation dates were missing. The second list of customers could not be identified as being in the village or not. Using GIS, these addresses were mapped and compared against existing locations and annexation information stored in the GIS environment. The results gave Comcast the accurate information they need and provided the village with greater certainty about the franchise fees they receive from Comcast.

Using GIS to Keep Unwanted Urban Critters in Check

Rodents, and rats in particular, are a persistent nuisance and potential health hazard in any urban area. If left uncontrolled, these critters multiply rapidly and wreak havoc on the environment they share with the larger human population. Communities must be proactive in keeping the rat population low.

The City of Park Ridge, IL sought an effective way to combat their growing population of rats. They called on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to help with their efforts. GIS evaluated the locations in the city with the greatest number of rat complaints and sightings and the relation to paved/unpaved alleys. Using data collected over the past six years, numbers were mapped and a hot-spot analysis was performed. This analysis depicts locations on the city map in varying shades of color to show how dense or sparse rat populations are in a particular area based on the number of complaints received.

Drawing on this key data, the city’s health department determined which neighborhoods are most heavily affected by rats, and where and what number of bait boxes should be placed in sewers this spring. Due to GIS’s involvement in the project, the City of Park Ridge is confident they are targeting sectors with the greatest amount of rat activity and controlling the rising rodent population.

Accessing Open Permit Information Using GIS

In 2013, the City of Park Ridge, IL successfully connected its local permitting database to the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) environment through a browser-based mapping application called MapOffice™ Web Access. This connection allowed a city employee the ability to see all permits issued since 2000 for a given property by simply clicking an address on the map. This worked great when only being concerned with one address at a time, but what if a user wanted to view permits that related to multiple variables rather than just one across multiple properties? One such example of this was the inability to look at only permits that were issued and never closed for an entire neighborhood. The city’s Community Development and Preservation department requested an enhancement to the permit lookup functionality to allow for more flexibility with the queries that could be displayed in the MapOffice™ Web Access application.

Using the Business Intelligence feature in MapOffice™, a user can now query any open permits around the city by a custom date search. For example, any open permits can be queried by day, week, month, or any period of time in between. This allows members of the building department to quickly visualize spatially the location of all open permits and gives them the information to contact all necessary parties to begin the closing process. Without this upgrade, the user would have to sift through countless open permit database records making it much more challenging to manage and track the progress of closing out those permits.

Integrating the City’s Permit Program with GIS

Every community looks for ways to streamline operations to improve its productivity when serving the public. One way of doing this is to incorporate other application programs a community uses with Geographic Information Systems (GIS). For the City of Park Ridge, IL Community, Preservation, and Development department this involved looking to GIS to access information from their permits program through the city’s browser-based GIS program, MapOffice™. 

To start this process, a connection was created between the permits program and MapOffice™. Once the connection was made, the relevant data fields that would be displayed had to be decided on by community staff. In the end, only a small percentage of the available fields were chosen showing only basic information such as permit number, type of permit, important dates, and owner information. Once this was all setup, it was ready to be accessed by community staff. In order to use this tool, staff would use the Business Intelligence by Address task in MapOffice™ to select an address on the map. Once the address was selected, a popup window with all permitting information related to that address would be displayed, and the user could get the information that he or she was looking for.

By having this new connection between GIS and the permits program, a village staff member can now locate pertinent information regarding permits without actually having to open up the permits program. This increases customer response time either on the phone or in person when a resident is going through the permitting process. Another advantage with this setup is that additional information can be added or removed quickly and easily, based on a request from a user.  The hope around the city is that this is the first of many programs that GIS can integrate with to make staff more efficient.

Using Business Intelligence to Track Home Foreclosures

In the past the Village of Northbrook, IL has worked with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to setup a process to help better record and track properties as they move through the foreclosure process.  This process involves a monthly review of mailed foreclosure documents and entry of dates into an excel spreadsheet correlating to when a lis pendens or pre-foreclosure notice is filed, when the property is found to be in foreclosure, and finally when the court approves the sale of that property and it is no longer in foreclosure.  Previously a static map was created from this information and sent to the Community Development and Planning Department and Police for use in their workflows.  With the new capabilities provided by Business Intelligence connections in the village’s browser-based mapping application, MapOffice™ Web Access, this process has been streamlined and provides increased access to the associated foreclosure information. 

To allow for this connection to occur, GIS created a database connection that allows Village Staff to query the information stored in the foreclosure spreadsheet in MapOffice™ by property status and date.  These query results are then displayed by location in MapOffice™ Web Access.  Using Business Intelligence, community staff has increased access to the information being tracked within the excel spreadsheet, where before they could only see the latest date and status for a specific property.  They also able to view the individual dates and gain a better understanding of the history behind a property.  Also, because the legal documents are scanned and stored by address within the village’s document management environment, a custom hyperlink is included with each entry which staff is able to click on to directly find and view the specific documents associated with the dates displayed on the map for verification or more information.

GIS Shows Village Development with New Story Map

The Village of Northbrook, IL Community Development and Planning Department approached the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department with the idea of using an online map application to help display and promote the development projects within the Village.  GIS chose to use a template called a Map Journal because it allowed for the integration of different multimedia formats such as text, images, map elements, and hyperlinks.  The interactive and media based template really draws in and engages the viewer.  This template serves as a great way to aggregate all the pertinent information related to a specific development project in one place and makes it easily consumable and accessible over the web or from a mobile device. 

The Map Journal template was also very useful for this project, because the builder allows for quick updates to be made when there are changes to a development project, or a new entry needs to be added.  Instead of having to upload entire datasets when a modification is made, GIS can easily work within the builder to make and save changes.  Finally, the map was customized to fit the look and feel of Northbrook’s website branding to create an elegant and useful website for the public to gain a better understanding of the major residential and commercial development projects within their community.   

Downtown Skokie Parking Ordinance Map

The Village of Skokie, IL recently altered their municipal lot parking restrictions throughout the downtown area of the village. In order to make this transition easy for Skokie residents and visitors, a map product that displays parking times and locations is an important asset. The Village of Skokie needed a map to bring to board members and the public alike.

The data gathering was a collaboration between the policymakers in Skokie and work orders from the newly placed signage at these parking lots. To assist with creating the desired map product, the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department reviewed the signage work orders to create the data and then reviewed the map with the policymakers to make sure it was accurate. Since this map faced the public and would be on the web site for the public to reference, it was important that this map be accurate.

The finished map now provides an easily referenced resource for future policy decisions and for residents or visitors to Skokie to know where they are allowed to park their vehicle and when. Most importantly, it prevents confusion during the transition since there are a number of different time restrictions.