Friday, February 27, 2015

York County commissioners OK aerial photographs for map

Prepare to have your picture taken, York County.

Soon after the snow melts but before leaves return to the trees, a plane will fly over the county to photograph its every inch to create an up-to-date map of the county, said Wade Gobrecht, chief of the planning commission's informational systems division.

But there's a short window of time when the photographs can be taken, and conditions must be optimal.

There can't be any shadows on the ground, so the plane will be flying at midday.

There also can't be any cloud cover or snow or flooding on the ground, and vegetation must free of its spring-time blooms of new leaves, Gobrecht said.

"There's a lot more we can see with leaf-off vegetation," he said.

That means the plane will be in the air taking snapshots of the county in late March or early April, Gobrecht said.

Cost: The county commissioners at their weekly meeting on Wednesday approved spending $88,919 to undertake the initiative.

The county is saving more than 20 percent by linking up with government agencies in the eastern part of the state, the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers, the U.S. Geological Survey and New Jersey, Gobrecht said.

As such, an area from York County to the Atlantic Ocean will be under the scope of the camera's lens.

"It's a pretty big area, but that's where you realize the cost savings, teaming up with other agencies," he said.

In order to make sure the whole of the county is photographed, the plane will fly in a grid pattern, likely starting in the southern end of the county. Once complete, the photographs will be turned into a map, which will be finished in the fall.

The last time the county was photographed from above for county mapping purposes was in 2008.

Uses: Upwards of eight county departments use the mapping data for a variety of different reasons.

"There's a lot of data extraction we can use," Gobrecht said.

The county's planning commission uses it to review sites of proposed development, and the county economic alliance uses it when marketing a location to businesses.

The county's 911 center also relies on the mapping data when dispatching calls. When a call comes into 911, a dispatcher can pull up the map of the area where first responders are being sent, said Kim Holtzapple, GIS and addressing supervisor for 911.

The images will also be used by the USGS to update the National Map, a nationwide effort to map the country.

No peeping Toms: Though the images will be high resolution, they won't invade people's privacy, Gobrecht said.

Since the photographs will be taken from above, no one can get a glimpse into a window of home. And, for example, if there's somebody sunbathing in early spring, that person wouldn't be distinguishable, he said.

"You can't really see an individual," Gobrecht said.

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