How EagleView imagery helped Fauquier County’s GIS team improve efficiencies across multiple departments
Fauquier County is located in Northern Virginia and is part of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Since the late 90s, Fauquier’s GIS capabilities had been gradually evolving as they began to leverage aerial imagery to help augment their available mapping data.
Up until a decade ago, the county’s GIS department was primarily focused on map-related functions, including managing datasets, maintaining 911 addressing, and providing mapping resources to staff and citizens. However, over the past 10 years, Fauquier has experienced a significant shift in their use of GIS, starting with the adoption of ESRI tools as well as changes in leadership, resulting in the prioritization of GIS and how it could provide additional value to citizens throughout the county.
“We went from a file-based CAD system to a fully developed GIS system, and were able to start rolling out more services and solutions,” said Dan Stell, GIS Director for Fauquier County. “Once that happened, the county’s leadership started to really see the importance of maximizing the capabilities of our GIS tools.”
Fauquier County’s continued growth eventually pushed their GIS needs beyond its existing capabilities. “We were relying on old aerial imagery we had obtained back in 1998, or outdated Geographic Information Network imagery provided by the state,” said Stell. “But working within the state’s imagery cycles was limiting. There were a couple of times that we got bumped altogether, or that the state flew half of Fauquier one year and the other half another year.”
Stell and his team needed access to high-quality, up-to-date aerial imagery in order to get the highest possible impact from their GIS systems. Without accurate data and aerial imagery, the county didn’t have the insights needed to properly manage information like their 911 data or their growing network of roads and overpasses.
“It’s hard to keep up with growth if you’re sending people out on the streets to gather address and road network data,” added Stell. “And because we had limited data, there was limited usage of GIS across the jurisdiction.”
As leadership transitioned and new staff members came onboard, more people realized the need for accurate aerial imagery and data, and that the technology would be a critical tool for streamlining processes as well as supporting their growth plans.
“I think our enthusiasm, our excitement, and our belief in the technology really drove it through the county,” said Eric Maybach, Commissioner of Revenue for Fauquier County. “You have to have a couple of people who truly understand the benefits, or at least have a vision of what those benefits could be.”
Maybach, Stell, and other county leaders advocated for the adoption of EagleView’s aerial imagery, and quickly gained buy-in from stakeholders and departments that would benefit from the technology. “Once we laid out the vision, everyone else just started adopting it,” said Maybach. “It was phenomenal!”
“There are departments that have a real need for accurate aerial imagery and data,” added Stell. “It’s our responsibility to support that need and show people what can be done.”
Once acquired, the county got to work distributing EagleView’s aerial imagery and data to multiple departments. Fauquier County assigned a GIS Analyst to manage the department accounts, user access, and data layers for each group. This allowed users to overlay local datasets like parcels, addressing, zoning/land use, and real estate assessment data in CONNECT over EagleView oblique and orthogonal imagery.
In fact, the first implementation of EagleView imagery within Fauquier was to support the county’s tax reassessment process for parcel re-evaluation. They were able to easily serve up locally hosted tax assessment-specific data layers as dynamic map services and upload shapefiles for unchanging data layers.
The return on investment—both financially and in increased productivity—was realized almost immediately. The county’s contracted assessors were able to leverage EagleView’s aerial imagery and data to streamline inspections for around 75% of total parcels, lowering the cost of the overall assessment contract by approximately $6 per parcel.
Shortly thereafter, the zoning and permitting staff began to leverage local data layers when reviewing site applications for compliance and accuracy, including using CONNECT’s measurement and analysis tools to determine structure setbacks and height limitations.
“Our Zoning department uses it every day to verify permit details and other information, which has been really helpful for compliance. General Services uses it to get property measurements and images remotely before going out into the field for repairs. Even our IT team uses it to manage fiber and other utilities,” said Stell.
To drive utilization, the county developed and distributed a series of internal communications, including an overview of the system and links to EagleView training, which were helpful in accelerating adoption, use, and acumen among CONNECT account holders.
Their efforts were a success. At the time of publishing, Dan’s team had onboarded 17 county departments/agencies comprising 119 internal users with more being added almost weekly. In 2022 alone, the county logged 23,077 image views, an average of 88 views per workday. Their focus on utilization helps ensure the county sees a positive return on their investment in EagleView imagery.
“When used across the county, efficiencies lead to money,” said Maybach. “The impact of the services and benefits that EagleView provides far exceeds the expense.”
Additional examples of EagleView oblique and orthogonal imagery used throughout the county include:
*Per the county: “We had details and locations for many of the sites, but it was difficult at times trying to narrow down the specific portion of a structure or property that was the original part once used as schools, churches, cemeteries, and places of gathering during times of segregation and inequality. We were successful in locating or verifying the sites using the obliques alongside our GIS layers. The data has been loaded into an ESRI Story Map.”