NORWALK, Conn. – Snooping around Norwalk is just one of the things you can do with a new tool on the city’s website.
Some observers to the capital budget process this spring had the impression that the city’s website was about to get a major overhaul. That wasn’t true, Information Technology Department Director Karen Delvecchio said. But there is a new entry on the homepage – a mapping service to help residents, businesses and those looking to relocate to Norwalk learn more about a property or location.
If you’re new to Norwalk and you want to see how old the building you’re living in is, you can look it up. You can get the longitude and latitude for things, look at landscaping contours, find the fire hydrants and the boundaries of voting districts. If, say, you like to walk up McAllister Avenue from Frances Avenue to Richmond Hill Road because it’s a steep hill, you can find out that’s a distance of 665 feet, with an elevation difference of more than 50 feet from the low point to the high point.
The GIS, or Geographic Information System, was created by the city for its own use and is now being shared with the public. Norwalk’s GIS is based on aerial photography from 2007, combined with a number of key databases, the city’s website said.
Common Councilman Bruce Kimmel said he is intrigued by the GIS.
“You can learn so much about Norwalk down to very small details,” he said.
That is summed up in this dry passage from the website: “GIS is an electronic mapping program with the ability to analyze, manage, and display information based on geography on a wide variety of scales. GIS is a technology designed to understand and manage questions associated with government information which has a geographic dimension, allowing the efficient use of resources and delivery of service.”
You can also check out the details of other people’s homes.
Oh sure, Zoning Commissioner Mike Mushak is a landscaper – but what’s his house like?
Sweet. Half an acre, two stories, clapboard siding, a gable roof.
Seriously, it’s in there.
Common Councilman Doug Hempstead has a two-car garage, the home owned by former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel appears to have purple shutters and the condo Mayor Richard Moccia shares with his wife has 1,224 square feet of finished area with a 10-by-four-foot deck.
Kimmel isn’t interested in that voyeuristic activity.
“For me, it will be useful when dealing with constituent issues, such as local flooding or traffic control. There are over 250 miles of roads in Norwalk; the GIS system should enable us to maintain a good idea regarding their condition and perhaps traffic patterns, sidewalk conditions, etc.”
That function isn’t there yet, but Kimmel said he assumes that pavement condition indexes will be input into the system.
Oddly, when the GIS went online it showed many homes sitting in two voting districts.
Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells said the grid overlay was off by about a block.
“The way they do maps is to have one underlying map and then put different overlays on top for various purposes, depending on what you want,” he said.
That function is not online at the moment.
The data on the GIS website is updated on an annual basis, the website says. Aerial photography is expected to be updated in 2014 and additional static maps will be added in the future. An iPad and tablet version is in the works.
There are other website enhancements coming to the website courtesy of the $383,000 allotted to the Information Technology Department in the 2013-2014 capital budget, Delvecchio said.
She said, “We are focusing on enhancing the mobile aspect/usability of the site and electronic delivery of agenda documents to various committee members.”