Metro Council Reports Getting REGIS Ready

May 17, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Regional Geographic Information System (REGIS) is almost ready, and that should be good news for builders, realtors, engineers, developers, planners and architects.

REGIS, an agency of the Grand Valley Metro Council (GVMC), is nearing the end of its building phase and could be up and running in about four months.

"We're getting close to the finish line," said GVMC Executive Director Jerry Felix.

"I'm hoping by mid-2001," added REGIS Director Phil Lund.

REGIS will provide a common database and host of applications for planning purposes that can be used by agency members, businesses and ordinary citizens.

"It's basically taking paper products and converting these into a digital format to get this information on laptops," said Lund.

Amy Zuidema, a REGIS staff member, said the system will contain large chunks of data, about 200 layers worth, across 11 different sub-models.

"Under the land-base sub-model, that is where you'll find your orthophotography or aerial photography. So between your parcels, your center pavement and your orthos, there is your basic information," said Zuidema.

In addition to land-base, the sub-models also cover cadastral or surveying data, water, transportation, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, street lighting, the steam system, public safety, political boundaries and planning.

Under planning, there will be information on master plans, land use and cover data and local zoning ordinances.

"There is lots and lots of data," remarked Zuidema.

Lund said that after REGIS is up and running, additional data from other sources, like the Dept. of Natural Resources, will be added.

So far, REGIS has 20 members supplying data; 16 belong to the Metro Council.

That was a disappointing total to GR Mayor John Logie who felt that with the population surge expected here over the next two decades, the agency needs a larger membership base — especially among the area's townships whose information is important for planning. He said 15 townships in Kent County weren't members.

"What we're doing here is absolutely vital," said Logie. "We have one of the best tools to handle that growth right in front of us."

But Gaines Township Supervisor Don Hilton said these units haven't joined because the membership fee, about $120,000 over three years, is too much for their budgets. He pointed out that these units receive between $400,000 and $500,000 in tax revenue annually and for those boards to come up with about $40,000 each year is taxing.

"It's not that they don't want to be involved. It's that they can't afford to," said Hilton.

Felix felt that more will join REGIS once it is operational. He said the agency will likely offer a financing plan to help townships. He also reminded members that REGIS will have a revenue stream, coming from fees for those using the system, like builders and engineers, that will help offset its costs.

"So, it's not a black hole that we will keep throwing money into," said Felix.

Lund added that without a $2.3 million grant from the state, the system might not have been built. "That, quite frankly, saved our bacon," he said.

The REGIS Pilot Program made its debut in January 1999 as the largest multi-participant project of its type in the country, a status that may have been topped recently by a similar regional system being built in the nation's capital.

"I think the overall vision is that businesses and citizens, at some point, are going to have access to this data," said Lund. "It certainly is going to help in development issues, planning issues, and all the many, many functions of this community with a core set of data that can be accessed."

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