Free and open access to Anoka County GIS data

The public now has free and open access to Anoka County Geographic Information Systems data.

The Anoka County Board April 22, on the recommendation of its Transportation Committee, approved a resolution authorizing open access to GIS data.

That free access is available on the GIS page at the Anoka County website.

Until now, the county has charged a fee per record or per layer for all GIS data sets, but the county board action eliminates those charges for the most commonly requested GIS data sets, according to John Slusarczyk, county GIS coordinator.

In a memo to the Transportation Committee, Slusarczyk wrote that the data sets can be found on a public, password protected FTP site that can be linked through the county website’s GIS home page.

“This new process will reduce the number of incoming data requests to the GIS department and eliminate the need to manage data license agreements,” he wrote.

According to Doug Fischer, county transportation division manager who oversees the GIS department, the data sets available to the public free of charge are “basic stuff, general information we are getting requests for all the time.”

But a fee would still be charged for more specific requests for GIS data such as, for example, for all property valued over $200,000 within a five-mile radius of a certain business, Fischer said.

Under the new county policy, the free data layers include:

• Property – parcels, tax data from the property records and taxation department, address points and plat boundaries.

• Local – county boundary, county trails, county parks, community boundaries, city parks, school districts, schools and zip codes.

• Transportation – train stations, railroads and road centerlines.

• Water and natural resources – ditches, lakes, wetlands, rivers, streams, watershed districts, boat launches and soils.

• Political – commissioner districts, polling places and precincts.

• Survey – bench marks, section lines, half section lines, quarter-quarter section lines and section corners.

According to Slusarczyk, users can download the data at their convenience provided they agree to a “terms and interest” disclaimer.

The disclaimer states, in part, that the information on the GIS site is for reference purposes only and is not suitable for legal, engineering or surveying purposes, nor does the county guarantee the accuracy of the information and is not liable for any damages.

The GIS still has a $50 an hour processing fee for all custom data or map requests, and will continue charging for all printed materials, Slusarczyk wrote in his memo.

The FTP data on the GIS web page will be updated a minimum of quarterly, but often monthly and at times weekly, he wrote.

The resolution approved by the county board authorizing the open access to GIS data states, “The county recognizes that this GIS data is a public resource and there are significant benefits to making data freely and openly available.”

“This is a historic and positive step,” said County Commissioner Jim Kordiak, who has served on the Metro GIS Board for many years.

According to County Commissioner Scott Schulte, chairperson of the Transportation Committee, the county has “reached a milestone” with this action to provide free and open access to GIS data.