Geocoding public notices

A recent discussion at realcrozetva got me thinking – how difficult (read: how much would it cost?) would it be to geocode public zoning notices?

A common question asked of me is – what’s going to happen to that field/woods/old house? My first and standard response is “condos.” My second response is (by way of risk management and a need to be the “source of the source” rather than the “source”) is to direct my clients to the appropriate locality’s zoning department. Even zoning departments, however, cannot see into the future or guess with 100% accuracy as to whether a certain project will be approved or not.

Albemarle’s Zoning Notice search page is detailed, but they charge a separate fee for GIS data.
The City of Charlottesville’s new website is terrible, but I finally got here.
Fluvanna has a nice GIS implementation.
Great post on geocoding at RCG

What if the a potential buyer or resident was able to do a proximity search from his or her address and search for zoning notices? Look at any and all zoning/public notices within a 2 mile radius of his home or business? We have such a thing for sexual offenders.

While we’re at it, why not provide crime data in an open format that is accessible and usable?

I was smarter, I’d figure out Yahoo’s Geocoding API. It looks straight-forward and simple, I just can’t put it together. Bueller? Bueller?

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  1. Ray Hyde July 11, 2006 at 18:23

    What if the a potential buyer or resident was able to do a proximity search from his or her address and search for zoning notices?

    Great idea, but even easier, why not simply require that zoning notices be required to be sent to everyone within a two mile radius, or even one mile radius?

    As it is now, zoning notices are deliberately under-advertised.

  2. Waldo Jaquith July 11, 2006 at 19:34

    Weirdly, Albemarle zoning notices have no machine-parsable location indicators like, say, addresses. Given that Timothy and Ginger Aylor have an “existing dwelling” that they wish to modify, why not just give us its address, rather than “the north side of Lonicera Way, at its intersection with Abelia Way,” or “Tax Map 20, Parcel 119”?

    If that main Zoning Notices List simply had the addition of an address in the rightmost column, that would be enough to make the whole affair mappable, making it significantly more useful to most people.

  3. Matt July 12, 2006 at 08:42 is an excellent tool for many GIS needs in several Central Virginia municipalities. However, it’s only as good as the employees in each subscribing county/town. If the Fluvanna/Louisa/Orange Assessors/Commissioners can’t get their property transfers to the GIS department or if the GIS department doesn’t have the manpower to input the transfers, then not only will the sale of a property not be discernable, but the subdivision of a property won’t be either.

    I imagine this would be the case with Zoning Notifications. The infrastructure is in place, but if the Zoning departments can’t get the alerts to the GIS department, then this GIS system will continue to be only a shell. But imagine if the Louisa County Planning/Zoning Department communicated to the GIS team that Tax Map 63-60 was being rezoned from A-1 to A-2 to allow for the subdivision of the property into 10 single-family residential lots. ALL of that info could be entered into the parcel’s GIS record in some way or another….I think.

  4. Jim Duncan July 12, 2006 at 10:29

    It seems as though they are using a form of metes and bounds. I agree that specifying at least the address of the property would be far easier than everything but the address?

    I frequently, but have to use another computer. is a Windows and Internet Explorer service. It does not run on the Macintosh or Linux systems, nor within Firefox or Netscape Browsers.

    Firefox usage is climbing; hopefully somebody will listen.

  5. Jim Bain July 12, 2006 at 10:31

    Is a county official who posts the permit? If so, they could record the geo coordinates using a portable device. Once you have the coordinates it is relatively easy to produce a google map. I recently did this for a client’s website:,com_google_maps/category,13|14|15|16|17|18/Itemid,26/
    Look what a web developer did with geocoded crime data in Richmond, VA
    Very Useful!

  6. Jim Duncan July 12, 2006 at 22:55

    I think that if the public voices its opinion loudly and consistently enough, the locality should respond. But that’s my idealistic view. Open data would help everybody.