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GIS and Planning

Spatial Data and GIS in Western North Carolina

The Division of Community Assistance

The Division of Community Assistance (DCA), N.C.  Department of Commerce, provides aid at no cost to North Carolina’s local governments and  non-profit organizations in the areas of community  development, growth management, economic development, and public management. The  Asheville DCA office has a staff of six professional planners, a Main Street architect, a technical draftsman, and a GIS specialist.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Planning

Since 1989 Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology has been integral part of the agency’s intent to keep up with the latest technological advances in computer mapping.  The need for visual perception of problems and challenges related to planning has stood behind the increase of popularity of GIS among local governments.  GIS  gives municipal governments not only the ability to efficiently manage and store huge amounts of geographic information, but also enables them to analyze the data and to put it in a visual format that can be very useful in the planning process.

The GIS mission of the agency is unique because it seeks to provide local governments with a low cost opportunity to receive technical advice and support in the areas of both planning and GIS.   DCA is able to combine the expertise of its planning staff with its limited GIS capabilities in its effort to help communities preserve their quality of life by managing efficiently their infrastructure and planning their growth.  DCA  planners have considerable experience in zoning ordinances, sign controls, economic development, growth management techniques and and community facilitation.  GIS use by the department has backed many planning projects, whether it is analyzing a new annexation, changing zoning, updating sewer or water line, designating priority corridors for pedestrian use, preserving open spaces, or looking at water supply watershed area.

GIS Capabilities and Range of Projects

Community Contacts
Geoffrey Willett
Community Development Planner
Alan Lang
Chief Planner
Dimitar Russafov
GIS Specialist

N.C. Department of Commerce
(828) 251-6914

The GIS set-up at the Division includes ten PCs with Arc View licenses, a digitizing table, and a plotter.  The range of GIS assistance includes but is not limited to the development of digital data layers and production of maps related to local planning issues such as municipal or county zoning districts, tax parcels, utility lines, and infrastructure.  The list of projects completed in 1997 include developing digital tax parcel and zoning layers for the towns of Marion, Highlands and Sylva and for high growth areas in McDowell County, utilities, parcel and infrastructure coverages for the town of Highlands, and water supply watershed boundaries for Cherokee and Avery counties among a variety of other projects.  The digital data developed at DCA complies with the standards set by the N.C. Geographic Information Coordinating Council (GICC) and N.C. Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (CGIA).  The agency has developed a close relationship with CGIA, sharing office space and equipment with its Asheville branch, and having access to most of its digital data.

For a zoning map of the town of Sylva, Click Here.
For a topography and utility lines map of Highlands, Click Here.

Clients and Costs

GIS services are provided at material recovery costs primarily to municipal and county governments and non-profit organizations (NPOs) of Western North Carolina's economically distressed counties. Because of its limited staff, the office is able to assist a very limited number of clients.  The focus of attention is on communities with a very small potential of developing their own in-house GIS services.  Assistance is provided on a first-come-first-serve basis and every  project is evaluated by the Regional Chief Planner.  The cost for GIS assistance is minimal, generally covering materials.

GIS Summer Internship at DCA

DCA is a partner of the  North Carolina Governor's Internship Program, which funds a ten week summer GIS internship position.  The interns who successfully pass the selection process receive GIS training, and have the opportunity to apply their knowledge in a variety of projects developing new data layers, editing existing ones, producing maps for presentation purposes, and providing municipal officials with Arc View  training.   Internship projects that have been successfully completed since 1996 include developing zoning, tax-parcel, and infrastructure digital layers for the towns of Marion, Spruce Pine, and Marshall,  parcel coverage and study of Little Switzerland for the Blue Ridge Parkway Commission, and  various assignments of data update and map production. 

Click here to download an internship application form or project proposal form.
For questions about the application process contact:  
Virginia Eagles, N.C. Governor's Internship Program,  
Youth Advocacy and Involvement Office  
217 West Jones Street, Suite 211, Raleigh, N.C. 27603 - 1336,  (919) 733-9296

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