A lake-area housing study has spurred the University of Missouri Extension to develop a prototype Geographic Information System (GIS) that could help boost residential development.
The study, conducted on behalf of Lake of the Ozarks Regional Economic Development Council, identified underserved housing challenges in Camden, Miller and Morgan counties including the location of hundreds of vacant lots available for development. One objective of LOREDC is to locate building lots and encourage the development of single-family and multi-family housing for service-industry income residents.
The MU Extension ArcGIS is a planning tool for developers that will help LOREDC meet that goal.
Through use of the housing study, LOREDC officials have isolated housing needs in several incorporated communities in the tri-county area, and now hope to match those needs with developers and local real estate agencies. One method is to provide detailed information about undeveloped areas so builders can more easily create affordable housing.
Pat Curry, Extension specialist with Community Economic and Entrepreneurial Development, and Michele Kroll, community development specialist with Camden County Extension, presented a pilot GIS mapping of land parcels and infrastructures for developers that could short-cut the development process by providing valuable infrastructure data. While still in the development stage, the GIS mapping for the tri-county area could be individualized by geographic area and be available this spring.
"Identification of the best building sites is a challenging task. Our approach uses several locational criteria," Curry said.
A challenge for developers is to locate good building spaces that are close to services, schools, employment, medical care and with a minimum of travel. The layered GIS tool seeks to do just that.
Curry and Kroll focused their GIS development on incorporated areas rather than rural areas because most development takes place near populated areas.
"One third of school age children live within a five-minute driving time of a school," Curry said.
Objectives of the GIS prototype are to:
•Avoid environmental risk. Sites should not be located in flood zones, near sinkholes or collapse- -prone areas, or in areas with unstable slopes.
•Locate near infrastructure and services. Sites within a municipal boundary are more likely to have ready access to infrastructure, transportation systems, and public safety services.
•Locate near employment and public facilities like hospitals, schools, parks and local government offices.
Developers will be able to pull up layers of data through the GIS product by using Google Maps. The key will be to make the GIS tool as user friendly as possible and to house it on a website that is readily accessible and powerful enough handle the complexity of layers of data. The most plausible location is the LOREDC website, noted LOREDC Chairman Tim Jacobsen, since the organization spearheaded the housing study.
Curry said the data collected offers:
•Aerial photography or satellite imagery at a scale that allows visualization of structures like housing units.
•Detailed surface transportation with traffic counts for major roads.
•Public facilities including hospitals, government offices, schools, parks, emergency services and other facilities LOREDC identifies as important to the project.
•Structures data that classifies buildings by primary use. The data source for this layer is data published by the Missouri Spatial Data Information Service.
•Environmental hazards data layers to include flood prone areas, collapse-prone areas, and unstable slopes.
•Government boundaries including counties, incorporated places, school districts and other published boundaries that LOREDC identifies as important.
•Detailed hydrology including lakes, ponds and streams.
•Census boundaries with demographic and housing data.
•Parcel boundaries published by the assessor’s offices in each county.
•Major employment centers data published by the Center for Economic Studies in the Bureau of the Census.

What's next
Refining the GIS mapping based in input from stakeholders will be an important step in making it adaptable to developers and planners, and also creating a model for classifying and ranking building lots. Extension staff will consult with LOREDC to develop an approach for selecting optimum building sites and producing a parcel data file.
Training and accessibility for users that do not have access to ArcGIS is also among the objectives. For potential users that do not have access to ArcGIS software, it will be possible to create a subset of the data that can be accessed using Google Earth.
MU Extension will provide training if LOREDC desires this level of access.
For more information about the new GIS development tool, contact Jacobsen at 573-348-1599; or email him at tim@funlake.com.