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!

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.

ArcGIS Online Finder Application


ArcGIS Online provides many downloadable applications that can be used on smartphones, tablets, and desktops.  This includes web application templates, which are specifically designed to take a web map and then apply graphics, charts, and other related information.  The templates are easy to use and require minimal coding and configuration to get them up and running.  One of these templates is the Finder Application, which is a configurable application template that allows the user to use an attribute search on various feature layers.  This is similar to the Find and Go feature on MapOffice™, but it can be configured to search for any feature attribute, not just address information.

Currently, the GIS Consortium and communities are using the ArcGIS Online Finder Application to create small web based maps that can’t be currently created in MapOffice™.  The Village of Deerfield has put together a web map that allows residents to search a cemetery for specific graves based on the deceased name, and The Village of Lake Forest has an application that allows a user to search for local landmarks.  By using the ArcGIS Online Finder Application, the communities of the GIS Consortium are using new technology to make data querying easier and more efficient.

Integrating a Custom Document Management System with GIS

The Village of Tinley Park, IL Planning Department was recently searching for a way to access scanned property plan documents using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which entails being able to search for a property using a map interface and viewing any documents associated with that property.  In order to leverage the capabilities of the village’s internet browser based mapping application, MapOffice™ Advanced, a new method for maintaining plan documents had to be established so that the planners could easily add documents to the village document management system and make them available in a spatial environment for viewing. 

To implement this functionality, a directory was created on the village network that contains folders for every address in the village.  Once a plan document is scanned into a digital format, a user can save that document in the appropriate property address folder for reference.  To help automate the process of connecting a document to its associated property in the GIS address data, a custom script was created that iterates through the entire folder directory and, if any new documents have been added, it adds that document name to a master reference list.  This list is then used to update the connection to MapOffice™ Advanced, thereby allowing users to access these documents in a spatial medium. Since most of this process is automated, the only task the village planners have to do is add documents to the correct property address folder and they will be available to access in MapOffice™ Advanced soon afterwards.

This process can be implemented for many types of documents, which makes it appealing for staff which may not have access to a formal document management system or if the current process of updating documents in a formal system is confusing or time consuming.  By leveraging the power of GIS, village planners now have an easy-to-use tool for accessing plan documents in an environment that naturally ties that document to the physical property it’s associated with.    

Residential Impervious Surface Analysis

The Village of Morton Grove, IL has a regulation in place that allows the Village to govern impervious surfaces, which accounts for everything that is not grass, for residential rear yards, with only 50% coverage being the regulated limitation.  The village Zoning Administrator requested that the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department assist them with understanding the existing total impervious surface coverage for all parcels in the residential zoning districts.  The Department of Community and Economic Development would like to use this information to better understand the amount of residential impervious surfaces village wide and to use this information to craft regulations, public notices, and gain a better understanding of land use in the community.

Currently, the village does not require residents to record the type and amount of impervious surface in the rear yard of a property. To help determine what type and how much impervious surface exists, the GIS staff leveraged the existing buildings, driveway, and sidewalk data layers that exist for the village to determine what was present on each residential parcel. This provided a good base for an average impervious surface percentage to be calculated. The total area of buildings, driveways, and sidewalks per residential parcel was calculated and divided by the total area of the residential parcels to yield the percentage of impervious surface.

By leveraging existing GIS data to calculate this information, the village Zoning Administrator was able to get an approximate percentage of impervious surface per parcel in all residential zoning districts.  Without GIS, this type of analysis would have been very time consuming and most likely would have involved paying for a costly survey of the village.

Selling Unincorported Utility System Assets

​The Village of Glenview, IL has historically provided sewer and water service to the unincorporated North Maine Township, located south of the village limits.  Providing these utility services to the unincorporated area caused a conflict with the village’s overall mission to provide the best service to the residents of Glenview, as managing this system took away from staff’s ability to directly service village residents.    A solution to this conflict appeared when an opportunity to sell these utilities to a larger local utility network was offered. The village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Department was asked to assist with the transition and eventual sale of the utilities and easements in the North Maine area through the production of both map products and utility statistics for the area in question.

By working together with the Community Development and Public Work departments, the GIS department was able take current land use data (such as residential zoned, commercial zoned, recreation zoned, etc.) and determine the utility easements that pass through a given land use classification.  By determining the area taken up by the easements, the village appraiser was able to determine a fair price for the sale of these utilities based on the land use classification and land value.

Without the aid of GIS in a study such as this, intensive work on the ground involving multiple staff members would be needed to gain the same information that GIS was able to accomplish in a relatively short time. This investment of manpower and time was easily averted by leveraging the village’s existing GIS services, leading to a significant cost and times savings.

Deerfield Fine Arts Festival

The Village of Deerfield, IL Fine Arts Festival is an annual event that brings many renowned artists from around the Midwest together to celebrate art, present exhibitions, and display their products. This event has been growing in popularity and attendance from year to year, so for 2014 the village decided to take a multi-departmental approach to planning. To assist with these planning efforts, the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department was asked to develop a map product that could be used as a universal communication medium for the event. 

Working with the Public Works, Police, and Community Development departments, map products were created showing the locations of vendor booths and exhibitions, parking areas and what they were to be utilized for, and the location of village equipment such as temporary No Parking signs, Handicap Parking areas, and road closure barriers.  Having this type of information exposed in a spatial environment helped each department better understand what was needed to execute the event and help to communicate between departments what the logistics would be leading up to and during the event.

Another aspect of this process was working closely with police and public works to plan and map traffic pattern changes and road closure implementations. By assigning police resources a certain area of the festival and showing the patrol patterns, as well as showing the road closure signage and equipment, a clear map showing the overall plan was able to be distributed to event attendees, vendors, and staff to assure the festival was well-coordinated and executed without any major communication issues.

Using ArcGIS Online to Reveal Available Properties

An important step in attracting new businesses and industry to a community is promoting the commercial properties that are available for purchase or development.  The Village of Woodridge, IL previously had a web-based mapping application that displayed the locations of available sites in the village, but the Community Development department was interested in upgrading this application and making it easier for interested businesses to search and easier for village planners to upgrade the data being displayed in the application.  To fulfill this need the department asked the Geographic Information System (GIS) department to develop a more customized application that fit the needs of what the department was looking for.

In response to this request, the GIS staff decided to use an ArcGIS Online Story Map template, which can be customized from what’s provided out-of-the-box to provide the additional functionality the Community Development department was looking for.   Based on input from the department, the story map created displays available or vacant office, retail, and industrial property opportunities and is branded so the design is consistent with other parts of the village website.  A revised process for updating the data has also been established, so planners can quickly update the application with new property locations and information as it becomes available.    This revised available property application design and update process provides the Community Development department with a more robust process for advertising vacant space and a more efficient method for updating the application with new content.

Home Foreclosure Tracking in the Village of Northbrook


Within the Village every month homes are receiving notice, entering into, and being sold out of foreclosure.  These documents are mailed to Village hall and scanned electronically.  However, due to the constant change and sometimes long process involved it was difficult for the Community Development and Planning Department to easily keep track of specific properties.  GIS was asked to create a system to record and display which properties are involved in the foreclosure process, and their current status.  

At the end of every month GIS reviews the scanned documents and records on an excel spreadsheet the dates that a property receives a lis pendens or notice of foreclosure, is foreclosed upon, and is sold out of foreclosure.  This list of addresses is then geocoded and displayed on a map by status:  yellow for pending foreclosure, red for homes currently in foreclosure, and purple for homes that have come out of foreclosure.  This map is then distributed by email to both the Planning and Police departments for use.  Knowing which properties are involved in the foreclosure process is helpful to planning inspectors who check for code violations as well as police who are interested in knowing which homes may be vacant.  Moving forward as more data is collected and tracked GIS will be able to perform more in-depth analysis and look for possible trends.

Using Interactive Mapping to Search Historical Landmark Properties


The City of Lake Forest, IL has developed an intuitive application that allows the public to view historical landmark properties and related property information that are located throughout the city. Community Development requested a method for staff and residents to be able to search for historical properties by address or architect. With the assistance of staff from the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department, the Community Development department will created a map application that will display the location of all city parks. Each park will have a unique photo, as well as a comprehensive list of related information. 

The first step is for GIS staff to acquire all of the locations and information. The historic properties were then be mapped and the related information will be populated. The data will be loaded into an online map environment, called Story Maps, which is powered by ESRI’s ArcGIS Online application. The Story Maps interface provides a user the ability to host an inactive map showing localized data, in this case historical landmark properties. The end result of this project will be a URL web link that is embedded on the city’s webpage. Once the Story Map is published users can search property by address or architect. Once a property is chosen, additional information is displayed in a pop-up dialog box. 

Creating this interactive map provides staff and residents with a streamlined source of information. Users can be able to browse historical landmark properties without looking through a cumbersome database. Having this information in an intuitive format and in accessible location has proven to be a valuable and time saving resource.