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Spring 2003
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The City of Quinte West, Ontario, Canada, Uses GIS for Economic Development

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Developers can quickly visualize their future investment on a particular site.

The city of Quinte West is a medium-sized municipality, covering an area of 500 square kilometers, in southeastern Ontario, Canada. It is conveniently located between Toronto and Montreal with a population of 40,000. It is an urban-rural mix with the main employer being Canadian Forces Base-8 Wing Trenton, also home of the Royal Canadian Air Force Museum and the Quinte International Air Show.

Since its creation in 1999, the GIS Division at the city of Quinte West has been utilizing its data, software, and experience to assist with the city's economic development proposals. As the amount of data collected and accuracy improved over the last three years, the quality of the products produced has improved also. GIS maps and data have been inserted into Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, printed documents, and promotional CDs available to potential developers. Prior to the formation of the GIS Division, the city was limited in providing detailed mapping to potential developers and could only provide spatial information such as paper maps of zoning schedules, copies of surveys, and paper topographic maps.

All GIS work, including data creation and application development, has been completed internally by the GIS Division. An office Intranet GIS has been implemented, featuring ArcView 3.2, ArcView 8.2, and ArcExplorer. The city began using ArcView because a staff member had previous work experience with ArcView and knew that the software could get the job done efficiently.

"The GIS Division initially bought one ArcView license from Esri Canada Limited while all other city staff used ArcExplorer," says Steve Whitehead, city GIS coordinator. "ArcView was then used to import the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Ontario Base Map (OBM) .e00 files and existing CAD files, and within days, the department had a basemap covering the entire city."

Sharing GIS and Data With Other Departments

More than 40 city staff members have GIS on their desktops, mostly using ArcExplorer, but several more advanced users have migrated to ArcView from ArcExplorer. Selecting ArcView as the primary GIS has allowed for the implementation of spatial data from other government agencies and sources; made it easy to share city data on special projects with other departments, agencies, and consultants; permitted internal application development; and made thematic mapping and spatial analysis easier. GIS is being used by city departments such as Planning and Building, Public Works, Fire, By-law Enforcement, Finance, Community and Leisure Services, and Corporate Services. The city's Fire Department has been of great assistance with error checking of the parcel mapping and has assisted with the development and growth of an ArcView 9-1-1 dispatch application.

The GIS basemap for the city of Quinte West, based on the OBM at a scale of 1:10,000 provided by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, is a seamless digital map. OBM shapefile themes include the transportation network, lakes, rivers, watercourses, lots and concessions, buildings, fence lines, contours, and spot elevations. The property fabric was digitized to fit the basemap, and assessment information was attached to each parcel. The zoning schedules were then digitized and integrated into the GIS using ArcView.

Public Works layers were then digitized into the GIS. Shapefile themes included waterlines, sewer lines, fire hydrants, manholes, traffic lights, and storm sewer network. Aerial photographs of urban areas were referenced, mosaicked, and incorporated into the GIS.

photo of city hall
The City of Quinte West City Hall.

Using ArcExplorer running on the desktop, it is simple for planners to identify vacant industrial lands. Queries using the query builder are performed on the parcel mapping, allowing for the identification of all industrial zoned parcels within a specific acreage and location. ArcExplorer informs planners of the location, ownership, and assessed value of the property.

The GIS informs planners and the economic development officer what services exist at the proposed site. Are the water, sewer, gas, and high-speed Internet connection facilities suitable for the proposed Business, or will the city or the developer have to spend additional money to upgrade the existing services? The transportation network is essential in displaying distances to major highways, highway intersections, road classifications leading to the property, and railway lines and spurs linking to the property. Planners can quickly measure distances along routes in ArcExplorer. Instant answers to questions from potential developers, such as distances, area of the property, landowner, approximate taxes, and zoning queries, often are given immediately over the phone, directly from the use of ArcView or ArcExplorer on the staff person's desktop. Answers to such questions would have taken much longer prior to the GIS.

ArcView has been used to position potential buildings on a proposed site. Will a 50,000-square-foot building fit on a property with enough room for a parking lot? ArcView can add potential expansion scenarios to a potential or existing building and can quickly and easily answer questions for both the developer and the city. Detailed CAD drawings of future buildings provided by the developer have been imported and inserted into the potential site using ArcView software's CAD Reader. ArcView is also used to display legal setbacks and buffer zones from the edge of a proposed building.

The topography of the proposed site is obviously important to a developer. Contours, spot elevations, and the watercourse layer can answer questions regarding drainage flow on a property. Existing detailed digital contour mapping in CAD format for specific sites is sometimes converted into shapefiles and added as a layer to a project.

The property fabric can be a useful layer in defining the demographics of a neighborhood. ArcView has been used to approximate how many people live within a specific radius of a proposed site and can provide a mailing list of landowners using Crystal Reports. The GIS Division has automated the mailing list procedure into a two-click solution, so staff can produce the mailing list simply and quickly. Aerial photography added to ArcView may be the most useful and influential layer in using GIS for economic development purposes. Color aerial photos, along with digital photos taken on the site, can provide potential developers with a clear idea of what the property is like without actually being there and prepare them for when they actually visit the site.

Maps produced by the GIS Division using ArcView showing the city facilities, institutions, and attractions prove to be a good selling feature. Regional maps indicating distances and radii to other major cities are always part of economic development proposals. The software's ability to produce maps in both metric and imperial units--and to flip back and forth with ease--is extremely valuable, as potential investors can come from around the world.

The GIS data used in ArcView and ArcExplorer has proven to be extremely valuable to the city when attracting new Business and industry. Several new industries and expansions have occurred within the city of Quinte West over the past three years, and GIS has assisted with most economic development proposals. The city of Quinte West quickly realized the value of using GIS for economic development, and it is now an integral part of all economic development proposals. The GIS has made the city more competitive when competing for large investments and has made proposals more professional and dynamic. GIS will continue to assist with new growth in the city as well as being a resource tool for citizens and the current Business community.

The Future

The city of Quinte West is investigating making GIS data available on the Web through ArcIMS to potential developers and seeks to purchase the ArcView 3D Analyst extension for better site and building modeling. The GIS Division will improve data quality with new orthophotography. It is anticipated that .5-meter resolution orthophotography will be available for the entire city by 2004.

For more information, contact Steve Whitehead, GIS coordinator, city of Quinte West (tel.: 613-392-4435, fax: 613-392-7151, e-mail:, Web:

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