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Rural Washington County Communities and Residents Access GIS Tools

The Washington County Council of Governments (WC COG) in conjunction with the GIS lab at the University of Maine at Machias (UMM GIS) have together created a multi-faceted set of regional planning documents and online tools addressing the many new and persistent challenges faced by rural communities. With funding assistance from a HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning grant, the work provides online data and full GIS mapping tools to all 44 Washington County municipalities. These tools are customized to the towns and bays of Washington County and can be further customized to the needs of the end user. Such users include municipal officials, developers, the conservation community, natural resource managers, deed researchers, residents and property owners.

As a part of the work, in the fall of 2013 WC COG and UMM GIS presented a series of 5 town- and bay-specific climate vulnerability assessments (CVA) that anticipate a variety of storm surge scenarios. The five CVA presentations identified vulnerable infrastructure and vulnerable populations for first responders and public works personnel and sought their input and feedback for refinement of the assessments. These meetings yielded very useful information in both directions.

Public parcel tools provide information to the public as anyone can view the Parcel Viewer online from any location. Planners' maps and regional coordination templates provide lay boards and Code Enforcement Officers with up-to-date information for planning and regulatory review. These tools should make the lives of busy municipal officials easier, while the storm surge scenarios are raising awareness and will hopefully save lives and reduce property loss in the future.

HUD funding has allowed Washington County municipalities access to tools they would otherwise never have the resources to obtain, develop or maintain. The Maine Association of Planners awarded this work Project of the Year for 2014.