Envisioning Regional Growth

Erie and Niagara Counties Outline a Vision Through 2020


  • ArcGIS Server helps visualize the policies contained in the Framework for Regional Growth.
  • GIS helps planning staff in the two counties comply with project review requirements.
  • Staff can generate point-specific reports.

Erie and Niagara Counties occupy a strategic position at the center of a dynamic region. The counties are in the western portion of New York State, bordering Lakes Erie and Ontario. The Niagara River and the world-famous Niagara Falls define the international border separating the two counties from Canada. As emphasized in recent reports by the Niagara Bi-National Region Economic Roundtable and the Urban Design Project/Waterfront Regeneration Trust, the counties benefit from their location in the middle of an internationally significant regional community and marketplace extending over 3,700 square miles from Toronto, Ontario, to Rochester, New York, and home to 3.2 million people. According to the roundtable report, the border location presents a host of advantages:

the Erie-Niagara Planning & Development application

The Erie-Niagara Planning & Development application helps users understand policy areas. Here, 85 percent of the selected parcel falls in a developed area, and 28 percent is in a wetland.

In 2006, Erie and Niagara Counties created the Framework for Regional Growth, a plan outlining the development vision for both counties through 2020. The overarching goals of the plan include creating a region with a vital economy, sustainable neighborhoods, strong rural communities, improved access and mobility, and efficient systems and services.

Recently, the counties selected Esri Partner Buffalo Computer Graphics to create an online map for the framework using ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS API for Microsoft Silverlight/Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). Buffalo Computer Graphics has worked extensively with Erie County in the past, primarily on the DisasterLan application, and has demonstrated a strong competence with Esri applications. The public-facing framework application ( helps planners, local government staff, and other interested parties understand the local landscape, including developed, developing, rural, and reservation policy areas; rural centers and growth corridors; natural systems, such as lakes, wetlands, and rivers; and heritage areas, like the Erie Canal and Niagara wine trail.

When users launch the ArcGIS Server application from the Framework for Regional Growth website, they can search for addresses or click a point on the map to generate reports that can include information such as how much of a parcel is in a defined policy area or growth corridor, distances from natural systems, and whether a parcel intersects a floodplain or steep slope. Visitors can also save their work and continue their review at a later time, measure distances and areas, and identify features. In addition to being a valuable tool for visualizing the policies contained in the Framework for Regional Growth, the ArcGIS Server application helps planning staff in the two counties comply with project review requirements under New York State planning laws.

"This server application makes the framework much more usable for our planners," says Darren Kempner, deputy commissioner, Department of Environment and Planning, Erie County. "Whenever I talk about it, people get excited, because it's tangible; they can look and say, 'OK, here's how this broad planning document applies to me, to this parcel, and to my municipality.' It's truly user-friendly."

The application also fosters informed discussions on planning issues and allows stakeholders to determine impacts on the area. "This gives them the big picture and shows them what is going on in the world around them," says Kempner.

For more information, contact Darren Kempner, deputy commissioner, Department of Environment and Planning, Erie County (e-mail:

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