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Newtown Looking To Be Virtually Mapped

With the Newtown Township’s new GIS system, integrated possibilities could soon lead to an all-access virtual town hall for residents and new historical resources tools.

NEWTOWN SQUARE–There is a new way to get all the information you need about properties in town, assessor cards, historical resources, neighborhood maps and more–and you won’t even have to set foot in the township's municipal building in order to get it.

For the past couple of months, township officials have been working together with West Chester University and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) consultant Catherine Spahr–a resident of Newtown Square and a graduate student of West Chester University–to start the process of getting the overall township on a GIS map.

Spahr presented the Board of Supervisors and public with the GIS presentation at Monday night's supervisors meeting.

What Is GIS?

According to GIS.com, GIS "integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information."

In addition, Spahr said GIS can provide base-layer maps, aerial data, geocoded inventory, joined sites to tax parcels, added attachments, export to Google maps, KML, ESRI ArcServer (a large company that does 80 percent of the GIS mapping).

"You can pretty much click on where my house is on the map and all this data comes up," explained Spahr. "It helps us make informed decisions, cost-effective, new analysis, web-based maps."

How Newtown Will Benefit With GIS

Newtown Township is the oldest township in Delaware County. GIS will be able to help further pursue the preservation of the historical resources in Newtown, said Spahr.

"We've got a lot of history here that we should be proud of, but with it being so disperse it's hard to come up with a good preservation method. So, one of the ideas is that we're going to use GIS to help preserve it," said Spahr.

In 1999 a request was made by the Board of Supervisors to prepare a historic preservation ordinance, which the Newtown Square Historical Society took care of, according to Spahr.

"They basically came up with a demolition ordinance and, basically, it was kind of a stopgap ordinance that would prevent a home from just being demolished right off the bat," said Spahr. The ordinance was reviewed by the Newtown Planning Commission and the Delaware County Planning Commission.

However, in 2003, the ordinance was tabled at a Board of Supervisors meeting and no preservation ordinance has been implemented in the township since then.

"Our goal for the historical society is to add this detailed visualization analysis of the township resources, and have it available to people," said Spahr.

Spahr said Newtown's GIS could also be helpful on a development standpoint as well by requiring developers to provide a digital plan of their application to be uploaded in GIS.

"So we can see how it would impact historic resources. We could also see how it could impact wetlands, floodplains, steep slopes and other resources that are important to the township," said Spahr.

Ideally, said Spahr, the interactive GIS map would be on the Newtown Square Historical Society's website, which would be made available to anyone to upload facts and information about their homes. Spahr also reassured that whatever information is posted to the homes in the township on the interactive map would be left entirely up to the homeowners.

According to Supervisor John Nawn, GIS has already been implemented by many townships across the country.

"We're probably in the minority that we don't have a GIS system," said Nawn.

Township Manager Mike Trio also added, "It's what most townships are moving towards."

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