GIS - The Great Educator

A good map is worth a 1000 words, and elected officials know it. Their ability to visualize many layers of data in a well crafted map makes it easy to understand complex issues and make better decisions.

How many parcels of land were sold last year? Where were they located? How many were larger than 100 acres? How many sold for more than $100,000 per acre? How far was each from a sewer line? From a four lane highway?

These are easy GIS display maps, with attached data that a customer can “drill down” and find just by clicking on the parcel.

How about more complex questions, like: “where should we locate the sanitary landfill?”

Based upon the data available, CFGIS can overlay floodplains, groundwater depths, unsuitable soils, soil depths, distance to major truck routes, distance to residential areas, prevailing winds (for odor control), endangered species habitat, and animal migratory corridors to help eliminate or pre-qualify sites for further examination by a specialized consultant. And because CFGIS is primarily public funded, it can offer its services at cost to public agencies in the state of Florida. We call these “Special Projects.”

Below is an example of CFGIS playing the role of education and support for central Florida community.

Regional Visioning- using GIS to change our future.

In 2006 and 2007 over 20,000 central Floridians participated in a regional visioning exercise with the goal of envisioning a better future development pattern for the region, led by myregion.org.

3,000 people played the "Development dot game" which indicated preferences for where development should take place between 2007 and 2050.

Using GIS in hard copy maps and tabletop computers, citizens were able to a make decisions based on land suitability, location of habitat, current urban centers and future utility service areas.



Using the themes of conservation, urban centers and corridors of transit seen in the development preference map, the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council and the University of Florida Geo Plan Center created four alternative 2050 scenarios. .
  • The Trend- The continuation of existing development patterns and densities.
  • Conservation- Primary emphasis was conservation of natural resources and addition of more open space, as indicated by the development dot map.
  • Centers- Primary emphasis was preventing sprawl by promoting more growth in urban centers with a somewhat less robust conservation core.
  • Corridors- Primary emphasis was connecting the centers from scenario 3 with corridors of mixed use high density Transit Oriented Design, with an enhanced version of the region’s seven environmental jewels conserved.


Trend is big loser. With 7,319 citizens voting on line or their preference, it became obvious that the clear loser was the Trend. 96% of respondents said stop growing the way we are. This means changing our comprehensive plans and zoning, and adding transit by 2050.

HSWG_RegionalGrowth2050_ECFRPCMap_7Region.pdf – this is not in folder

4 C's 2050 Regional Growth Vision

The overall preference was to combine the best of the three alternative scenarios.
  • Establish a “Green Areas” conservation footprint. Do it first.
  • Promote growth in centers: cities/town/villages.
  • Connect centers with mixed use high density corridors containing a balance of roads/light rail/streetcars and buses.
  • Preserve countryside in rural areas.
The Regional Visioning exercise was the largest ever undertaken in the USA with over 40,000 involved wither directly of by the internet or television viewing. It won awards from the American Planning Association and the Collins Center for Sustainable Florida.

The exercise was entirely dependent on sharing GIS data, running sophisticated “what if?” GIS models and then running impact analyses to educate the public. For more information, please see the www.HowShallWeGrow.org website.