Ontario municipalities gain free access to land data

Municipalities across Ontario will gain access to digital parcel-mapping data at no cost following the completion of a project to create a central repository.

Teranet on Tuesday said the Ontario Parcel database includes taxation,

land use, registration and planning applications, among others. So far more than 180 municipalities have obtained a licence to use the system, which includes information on Ontario’s four million land parcels. The company formed an $8.5-million partnership about three years ago with the Ministry of National Resources (MNR) and Municipal Property Assessment Corp. (MPAC) to create Ontario Parcel.

MPAC vice-president of IT Anthony Wisniowski said Ontario Parcel will reduce much of the paper-based mapping and replace it with a geographic information systems (GIS) framework. To ease the transition, the organization has also developed an in-house tool called Assessment Information Mapper, a Web-based system that allows them to customize search criteria and pre-define maps by theme.

“There are different tools for the display and storage of the data, but much of the GIS nowadays is very interoperable,” he said. “We didn’t find that the pure technical standards around data formats was any issue at all.”

Ontario Parcel is several months late, the result of a delay associated with one of Teranet’s sub-contracting partners, according to project manager Peter Atkinson. On the other hand, the end result came in under budget, thanks to some of the relationships it has formed with experienced GIS firms, he said. Teranet will continue to maintain the database and the Ministry of Natural Resources will do maintenance in their own environment, Atkinson added.

“The concept is that we have the official version of the database here in Teranet, and MNR and MPAC maintain slave databases, if you will,” he said.

Key elements captured in the database include the boundaries of parcels, as well as the “centroids” in the middle of a parcel, Wisniowski said. The centroid is essentially a point feature within the parcel that allows for different layers of viewing. The system will also allow users to use the data for thematic rendering, he said.

Atkinson said Ontario Parcel is based on an Intergraph database with a separate delivery environment where changes are pushed out to Oracle Spatial to be used by MPAC, MNR and all other clients.

“Part of the rationale was to get away from any dependence on any GIS vendor,” he said.

Although all three organizations handled data with different formats, Atkinson said the biggest challenge was forming the original agreement to create Ontario Parcel. Teranet had already developed a tight set of specifications, and the project involved tweaking the data appropriately.

 “The nature of the data that we’re maintaining is parcel data, where most of the information you’re interesting in is in straight lines, about two points,” he said. “You’re not looking at every bend in a stream and contour lines.”

Teranet said larger munipalities will be able to sub-license Ontario Parcel to lower tiers. For example, Toronto could sub-license to Brampton or Mississauga.

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