Thursday, August 10, 2017

Final Project - Property Search For Undeveloped Acreage in Walton County, Florida

Here it is, our final project for Applications in GIS! I conducted a property search for a Mr. and Mrs. Brown, who were looking to purchase a large, undeveloped parcel that was zoned for agriculture to build there future dream home and horse stables complete with pastures and riding arena. The Browns wanted to be close to town, so they decided that they wanted a property less than 15 miles from one of the two larger cities in Walton County. They also wanted to ensure the safety of their animals by having the property be at least one mile from any major roads in case they had an animal escape. They also ideally wanted a property with a slight natural (2-5%) slope to aid in drainage of the property so there was less likely to be standing water and conditions that would not be optimal for keeping horses and livestock. To start, I began by finding parcels that met their required parameters. I used select by attribute to select all parcels that were over 10 acres and were listed as vacant in the use description field (this also ensured that the large, vacant military owned parcels were excluded from the search). I exported the selected parcels as a feature class and used select by location to select all of the parcels in the newly created feature class that were within the agriculture zone layer (that I created from the Walton County land use layer) and exported those selected parcels as a new feature class.

Next, I worked with the optional parameters. I used the buffer tool to create a one mile buffer around the major roads layer and used the Euclidean distance tool on the buffer layer. After that I used the Euclidean distance tool on the selected cities layer, which contained the two larger cities in Walton County. Next, I used the reclassify tool on both of the created Euclidean distance rasters so the best options were set to the highest value, and the worst options to the lowest. I created a mosaic dataset of the two elevation rasters that cover the county and clipped them to the county boundary. After that, I used the slope tool on the clipped elevation raster to convert it to slope percent. Finally, I edited the symbology manually so there were 9 classes ranked from closest to the 2-5% range to the furthest from that range and color-coded them accordingly (and the same as the first two rasters), then used the reclassify tool on that raster also to set the areas that best fit the parameter to the higher number.

For the final analysis step, I created a toolbox to hold the weighted analysis tools. After that I created a new model in the toolbox and added my three optional parameters and the weighted analysis tool. For the first weighted analysis I gave the parameters equal weight (33% for slope, 33% for distance from major roads, and 34% for distance from town), and saved the model as weight. I ran the tool then created a new tool for the second weighted analysis, then I gave slope the least weight (20%) because it was not as important as the other two variables in the selection, distance from major roads medium weight (%30) because it was a more important variable to the couple, and distance to town the highest (50%) because they were more adamant about not having to drive a long distance to get groceries or home goods. 

The second weighted analysis with the highest weight allotted for proximity to the city provided the best results for the Browns. All three results are less than 15 miles from the center of DeFuniak Springs. I feel confident that the Browns will be able to purchase one of these three parcels to be the future site of their dream estate. If they would like more options to choose from, I can find many more parcels to compare by dropping the variable for the lot to be vacant. They say that money is not a limiting factor, so they could always remove existing structures to get their perfect parcel to start fresh from.

I will admit that for as solid as I felt my proposal and plan was, I did run into a decent amount of issues. I had originally planned to write a script to find the areas on the slope raster that were between 2-5%, but the raster that was produced by my script to find the areas where the slope was between 2% and 5% did not load properly, even after building pyramids and calculating statistics for the raster file. I was able to manually categorize the slopes into 9 categories and symbolize them the same as the other two parameter rasters. Also, the original parameters may have been too specific, because they only returned 5 parcels before the optional parameters and weighted overlays were completed. If I had to do the project again, I would omit the vacant variable because that would not be a necessity, whereas a large parcel and correct zone are required. I can honestly say that this project, and especially this class as a whole has taught me so much about ArcMap, and I am excited to put my newfound knowledge to use at my job.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Module 11 - Sharing Tools Lab Assignment

This week's lab assignment was our final assignment for GIS Programming. We learned the three methods to share custom tools. In the assignment, we edited a created script and script tool that creates random points in or along a feature and then creates buffers around each random point. The tool allows the user to select how many random points to create as well as how large of a buffer to create around each point. We had to be sure that the correct variables were assigned to each parameter in the script. After making sure that the script would run properly, we edited the dialog for each parameter to inform the user what each parameter requires. After all of the parameters were described, we embedded the script in the toolbox with the script tool to aid in easy sharing of the toolbox, and then assigned a password so that no one can view or modify our script unless they know the password. This was a very useful lesson, and a fitting one to be our final lab. Although this was a very tough class for me, I can confidently say that I have learned a lot in a short period of time and am excited about how I can use programming to enhance my GIS skills.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Module 10 - Creating Custom Tools Lab Assignment

This week's lab assignment was an interesting lesson in how to create custom tools in ArcMap. We started the lab with a created script that clipped many layers at one time to the same boundary. After editing the comments in the script and saving it with our name, we opened ArcMap and opened the catalog window. In the catalog window we right-clicked the folder where we wanted to create our toolbox and selected new then toolbox. We named the toolbox and then right-clicked our newly created toolbox and selected add then script. We named the new script, then checked the “store relative path names” option, and selected the correct script as the script file, and clicked finish. After that, we opened the script properties and added our four parameters (Input File Location, Clip Boundary Feature, Input Features, and Output File Location) and named their data types (workspace for the two file location parameters, and Feature Class for the two feature parameters. To make the input Features parameter able to act as a list, we selected yes for the MultiValue property. We also set the input and output file location. Next , we opened the script in PythonWin and edited the values for the variables so instead of set inputs, it uses arcpy.GetParameter(), making sure to put the correct parameter number in the parenthesis. We named the output variable as a string, then we replaced the two print statements with arcpy.AddMessage() statements. Finally, to be able to easily share the newly created script tool, we selected the toolbox and script and created a zip file. This ensures that other users can use the newly created tool and it will be fully functional.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Participation Assignment #2

I found this interesting and informative article about living shoreline suitability in Sarasota County. One of the main components of my job is designing, permitting, and constructing living shorelines throughout our bay and bayous. Living shorelines are shoreline management options that help reduce erosion while providing habitat and improving water quality through natural filtration. These techniques can range from the simple options for low wave energy areas of just installing native shoreline vegetation and saltmarsh grasses, as well as the addition of oyster reef breakwaters or rock sills in front of the grasses for added protection. More people are learning about living shorelines, the benefits they provide, and how they are often less detrimental than bulkheads or seawalls (hardened shorelines). This article looks at different variables that are more suitable for living shoreline technique options. They looked at bathymetry, land use, land value, population, whether it was a sensitive shoreline according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commision, the shoreline habitat, tree canopy, and wave energy. All of these factors play a part in how suitable an area is for a living shoreline, but some variables (such as wave energy) play a larger part in the decision, so they also looked at a weighted suitability score in addition to the score with all variables equally weighted. Overall their equally weighted and unequally weighted scores were similar, and both showed few locations optimal for plant only living shorelines, which seems harsh compared to what we know in practice. They did attribute that partially to some of the data, including the bathymetry data, that did not extend all the way to the shoreline, so it may have skewed the data. While they did state that they noticed areas where the data could be improved or reclassified, this provides a great base for a suitability model. I think it would also be interesting to include projected sea level rise data because we are already finding that many of our reefs that once were breaking the surface of the water no longer do. I hope to be able to eventually create a similar model of our watershed to use for planning purposes, as well as to support grant proposals.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Module 9 - Working With Rasters Lab Assignment

This week's lab assignment was an interesting lesson into working with raster data. For the lab assignment I had to create a script that created a new raster that highlights forested areas with a slope between 5 and 20 degrees and an aspect between 150 and 270 degrees. I started by importing the arcpy and modules, set the workspace environment, and set the overwriteOutput to true. Next, I had to make sure that the spatial analyst is available, and had to start a conditional statement. I started by checking out the spatial analyst extension within our if statement. Next, still within the if statement, I used the RemapValues function to assign to assign forest landcover values all as a new value of 1. After that, I reclassified the landcover raster with the new values. The next step was to prepare for the slope and aspect raster calculations by setting the elevaton raster and creating variables for the slope and aspect rasters using the .Slope and .Aspect functions. After that we created temporary variables for all conditions (four in all because to have a range we had to set the low end of each range and the high end of each range as separate variables). Finally we combined the four recently created variables with the landcover variable we created earlier into a single final raster output and used the .save function to save the final output raster to our results folder. After all that we checked back in the spatial analyst extension still within the ongoing if statement. Finally to complete the conditional statement we ended with our else statement to print "Spatial analyst license not available" so the person running the script would recieve a clear message rather than no output if they do not have access to the spatial analyst extension. Overall I was pleased to find that I worked smoothly through the lab besides a small spelling error that I overlooked. It definitely made me feel more confident in my programming abilities!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Module 9 - Urban Planning - Local Government Lab Assignment

     This week was our final lab assignment before our final project. We worked more with parcel editing and searching and learned how to create a map book as well as a report from the attribute table. We had two sections to this lab that both placed us as local government employees working on GIS tasks with parcel data.
     The first part of the lab consisted of working with parcel data from Marion County to research zoning and surrounding parcels of a large parcel owned by Mr. Zuko to see what impacts a fly-in community would have on the surrounding parcels. This lab showed us the benefit and ease of using data driven pages to create a clean and finished detailed presentation for a map book that contained a set of detailed close-up view maps and an inset map to show where each map section was located. We also learned how to create an informative report from the attribute table to provide a professional final report of desired attribute information.
     The second portion of the lab was working with Gulf County parcel data to complete some advanced parcel editing on a newly acquired set of lots for the Gulf County Board of County Commissioners. We had to combine two recently purchased lots, then divide them into two new parcels using detailed instructions of the new parcel boundaries. We then had to look at all parcels that the Gulf County BOCC owned and find the ones that would be suitable for their new extension office. We used select by attributes, as well as joining a table that included the development status of each parcel to find all BOCC owned lots that were larger than 20 acres and were currently vacant. Finally, we had to create another attribute report with the data about our selected parcel choices to present to the BOCC.
     This lab was very interesting and showed us some useful tricks and shortcuts to create intricate professional maps and reports. The data driven pages tools will definitely be something I use in the future to create detailed map documents for my job.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Urban Planning Participation Assignment

     This participation assignment was an introduction into to workings and available data from county property appraiser's offices. We started out the assignment with a few exercises looking at the property appraiser's website for our own county. I have used the Walton County property appraiser's website ( before multiple times for work, but have just scratched the surface of the data that it holds. We began by looking at the most recent properties sold (in June 2017), and searched for the highest priced property that was sold that month. For Walton County, there was a tie for the most expensive property between 3 commercial properties, and they all sold for $7,700,000. Property values have been jumping in South Walton, and the first listed property when I sorted by descending sales price had a previous selling price of $2,350,000 in 2009. The Walton County property appraiser's website does not list an assessed land value for the properties, but lists the land value (which was $345,644) and the assessed value (which was $1,058,802). Both of these values are a good amount lower than the last sale price. The details for the first listed highest sold property are below in a screenshot. Looking at the deed, I found it interesting to see that the company that bought this property also bought the other two properties that were tied for the same highest sale price for June. The difference between the last sales price and the most current sales price also shows the huge growth that Santa Rosa Beach is experiencing.

     The second part of this assignment was a more hands-on exercise. We were working for the Escambia County property appraiser's office and had to review land value assessments for the West Ridge Place subdivision. We began with a basic mxd including Escambia County parcels, boundary for West Ridge Place, a land values table, roadsways, and CAD drawings of the subdivision. We created a feature class containing just the parcels for the subdivision, and symbolized the parcels by land value in gradually increasing colors. We labeled the parcels within the subdivision and the nearby roads. Next, we used the CAD drawing to isolate the easements and created a feature class depicting the easements. We made a few finishing touches to the map, and my map document is shown below.

     After looking at my final map document, a few parcels stood out as having values that differed from nearby parcels within the same subdivision. The lift stations, retention ponds, and conservation easements definitely stand out, but are lands that are not able to be developed so they are omitted. Parcel 090310105 (in yellow) definitely stands out as being a much lower value than the rest of the uniformly sized parcels in the subdivision. I would definitely recommend that this parcels be reviewed. If someone wanted to err on the side of caution, they could also review parcel 090310165 (in red), and the five lighter orange parcels, but they do not have as vast of difference as the first mentioned parcel. This assignment was a short and sweet introduction to parcels and property values, and will definitely be helpful with the upcoming lab assignment.