The Blue Ridge Parkway, widely known as “America’s Favorite Drive,” cuts through the heart of Carroll County, Virginia — an area known for camping, hiking, fishing, hunting and even (according to a local guide), astrophotography. From Groundhog Mountain (elevation 3,030 feet) in the county seat of Hillsville, one can get a panoramic view of this sweeping county of 478 square miles.
With 30,000 residents living in five magisterial districts that hold 20 unincorporated towns, location-based data is an essential resource for Carroll County’s government. And the MapGeo mapping platform is the way that county staff access and share information directly to a wide variety of constituents. There is no limit to the types and combinations of mapped information that MapGeo can present, such as secondary route numbers, voting districts, school districts, flood hazard maps, development plans, property information, topography, magisterial districts and more. MapGeo gives county administrators the flexibility to publish maps that match the needs of constituents.
The universal appeal of MapGeo is not surprising to Carroll County GIS Coordinator, Justin Barnard. “I’ve had very positive feedback from all kinds of users. It seems that the most common users are realtors, surveyors, appraisers, mortgage lenders and insurance agents.”
Real estate agents find MapGeo particularly useful for property evaluation and communication with customers. According to Master Chief Deputy Commissioner of the Revenue, Matthew Surratt, “Real estate agents and appraisers have always expressed that Carroll County’s MapGeo far surpasses surrounding counties’ GIS systems.”
“Carroll County GIS is my absolute favorite. I wish every county’s system worked as well as MapGeo,” said Mike Thomas, Marketing Director/Realtor, Mountain Sky Properties, Inc. “I use MapGeo to see the property lines for when I am taking aerial photos, to find the property on Google Map for navigation purposes and to share with interested buyers. I also use MapGeo to see the topography, school districts and flood zones.” He added that one of MapGeo’s best features is its integration with Google Maps. “It makes my job easier by showing up-to-date base maps and by working so easily with Google.”
With so much useful property and other information online, county staff are always discovering new ways that residents are using MapGeo.
“Hunters and sportsmen have told me that they use MapGeo to scout out potential hunting and trapping spots,” said Surratt. He added, “MapGeo gives them 24-hour access to our data.”
Barnard said that all Carroll County departments use MapGeo. The most frequent users are Administration, the Commissioner of Revenue Department, Land Use & Planning, the Building Official Office and Fire & Rescue.
Because of its location in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountain Range and its unique topography, Carroll County’s Land Use & Planning department’s use of MapGeo is of particular importance.
“I use MapGeo to determine location, to determine compliance with our regulations when a change to a property is proposed, to determine proximity to water and sewer lines, to obtain ownership information, to determine topography, to determine if the property is located within our growth tier, to use our state road layer to determine if the property is located on a state-maintained road. That’s just a few of the ways I use MapGeo,” said Ronald L. Newman, Carroll County Land Use & Planning Coordinator. “Everyone is thankful we have the system. MapGeo gets compliments over our adjoining localities’ systems, especially for ease-of-use and information obtained.”
The Carroll County MapGeo site gets about 2,500 views of month. That’s potentially 2,500 questions answered without the overhead of office calls or visits; not to mention the potential discovery of new information from maps, or the value of data sharing by MapGeo users.
Surratt believes that the time savings alone are significant. “...the time saved by business professionals like attorneys, real estate agents, the Department of Social Services, the Health Department and building officials, to name a few, is measurable. They all use our data posted to MapGeo to complete their jobs. Publishing this data cuts down on the time it would take if they were to access the info directly from the source.”
“Our office uses MapGeo as a tool to get our data to the taxpayers in a time frame that best suits their needs,” said Surratt. “By giving residents a visual, hands-on tool that MapGeo provides, we are able to direct taxpayers to the site for a better understanding of what we are trying to relay. A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Crystal Adams, Carroll County Administrator, agrees that the visual information is critical and makes a difference. “Most useful is being able to look up who owns property within the county and, at the same time, see an aerial picture of it.”
Administrator Crystal Adams is well aware of MapGeo’s ease-of-use and time-saving qualities. She said, “When citizens call in, I don’t have to get up and find someone to help them. Also, I am able to walk them through the system to show them how to use it in the future.”
Carroll County Permit Technician Kimberly Moody said, “Providing property ownership information on the web enables users access to the data rather than having them come in physically or phone the office to make an information request.”
Because MapGeo is a single, easy to use, mapping platform, it is available to all who need it without limitation. The County can add map layers to MapGeo at any time, and make them universally available. Businesses, residents and staff are free to use MapGeo to combine data layers, adjust transparency, change base maps, zoom, pan, and share map views. They can draw on the wealth of data that the County makes available as a self-service resource in ways that add immediate value.