Changes to Land Records & GIS systems

On the first week of May 2019, Brown County is transitioning from our AS/400 land records and tax system to a new system (LandNav by GCS Software).

This will affect public web sites in the following ways:
  •  The old public Land Records Search page will be retired and replaced by a new GCS public web portal.  The new GCS web portal has a modern look and new capabilities.  It will be similar to the web portals used in many other counties.  The old Land Records search page should automatically redirect to the new one, although you may want to update your web bookmarks when the public URL becomes available. 
  • The BrownDog GIS mapping site will not change much.  The biggest change to BrownDog will be that the parcel popup window will link to the GCS web portal for assessment, tax and other information. 
As we make these computer system upgrades, we plan to keep all sites running although we may get a little behind in data entry during the transition.

We plan have the new system completely in place by May 7, 2019.


New 3-year plan

If you're interested, a new 3-year plan is posted here  (Click here to download the Brown County Land Information Plan 2019-2021.PDF).  This plan format follows the state program guidelines; Much of the document is more of a report than a plan.  If you work with GIS, surveying information, or other Brown County land information, you may find this interesting or useful. 



GeoPrime is no more

After being on life support for the last couple of years, we finally pulled the plug on the old GeoPrime mapping site.  Anyone who tries using the URL to GeoPrime will be redirected to the BrownDog map instead.

We launched GeoPrime in 2009 and at the time it was a huge improvement in web mapping. The Adobe Flash technology really made for smooth navigation and nice-looking graphics. 

However, as this article describes, it was time to move on.   GeoPrime was our flagship mapping app for 10 years, and that is a long life for computer software.

BrownDog has nearly all of the capabilities that GeoPrime had.  We will continue to develop the BrownDog mapping app as time permits. 


How to add layers to the BrownDog map

When you first open the BrownDog online GIS map, you see a lot of map layers along the right side of the screen.  These are the layers that many people have asked to be included in this map, and they can be viewed by simply checking them "on".

Brown County produces many other map layers for various projects that are not part of the "main" layer list, yet are requested fairly often by folks like you.

Use the "Add Layers" button illustrated below to look for other map layers that might be useful to you.  As of January 2019, these include:
  • Snowmobile trails (it's January!)
  • Business parks
  • Extraterritorial zoning
  • New subdivisions
  • Parcel archives from 2005, 2010, 2014 and 2017. Clicking these archived parcels will show property tax assessment information from the year selected.
  • Outdoor warning sirens with approximate coverage areas
  • More to come! We will be adding to this list in the coming months.
  • You can also choose the Search dropdown to "ArcGIS Online" to look for GIS map layers produced by other organizations.
Further, if you know a thing or two about spatial data, you can add your own data files such as lat/lon coordinates in a CSV file, shapefile, or GPS file export. To do this, choose the "File" tab at the top of the Add Layers screen. Currently the supported formats include shapefile, CSV, KML, and GPX. Just keep in mind your file may not 'overlay' properly unless you have assigned a coordinate system to your data file.


Here's an example of how you can use this information.  Say you're interested in property value change through time around Lambeau Field.  You can add the 2005 parcel archive, then start clicking the map.  One parcel across from 1265 Lombardi Ave had a total assessed value of $92,900 in 2005.  As of 2018, it is the location of one of the more noticeable "tailgate houses" and is assessed at over $350,000. Point at the map, click, and BrownDog will fetch the information.  You can turn on the older photos (scroll down on the main layer list) to visually see the land use change. You will notice most of the parcel archive dates coincide with the air photo dates.


Parcel details hard to read? Here's what to do:

When you search for a parcel in BrownDog, the resulting parcel gets highlighted in orange.  Some people like this highlight, others don't.

If you don't want the orange highlight, just click the small X in the search box to clear out your search. This will also remove the orange highlight.

Also, if you want the parcel details (lot dimensions and so forth) to stand out better, you can also adjust the transparency of the "Parcel Graphics" layer by clicking the three dots ( ... ) to the right of the Parcel Graphics layer in the Layer List, then move the slider over to the left to make this layer opaque (0% transparent). 

Click the X in the search bar to remove the orange highlight:

Adjust the transparency of the Parcel Graphics layer to make the details darker and stand out more.  You might also want to turn off the Parcel Ownership layer: 

Scroll down for more articles / tips on how to use the BrownDog online mapping app.


How to View Aerial Photos in the BrownDog map

Here's how to view aerial photography in the BrownDog map:

1) Scroll down on the Layer List on the right, then check on the air photo layers.  It is a long list of layers*.  You can either hover over this list and use your mouse wheel to scroll down, or else click and drag the scrolling bar to the right of the layer list and move it down until you see the air photo layers.  The air photos typically underlay parcels and other layers, so they are near the bottom of the list. 


2)  You can also click the "Basemap Gallery" button near the upper right part of the app. It looks like this:  .  Clicking this button in the BrownDog app will provide you with choices for the underlying base map, which includes aerial photos from various years dating back to 1938.

*  I am hoping our software provider gives us the ability to "group" layers like we had in the old GeoPrime app.  This will help organize the layers and make them all move visible.  Once we are able to set up layer grouping, the layer list will be shorter and you'll be able to find the aerials and other layers faster.


How to print from the BrownDog map

Here is how you can print maps using the BrownDog online GIS map:

1. Click the Printer icon (button) near the upper right part of the BrownDog online GIS map

2. On the Print setup screen, enter your map title, choose your Layout page size, and the map file format you want.  It defaults to PDF, but you can also pick JPG or other image formats from the list.

3.  After entering your title, size and format, click the large blue "Print" button. A graphic is produced after a few moments and will appear in a list.  Simply click the map title in the list to open or download your map PDF (or whatever image format you chose in step 2).

Happy mapping! 
If you need to make adjustments to the map extent/scale or other map elements, click the Advanced button and try out the different options. 

How to turn off land owner names and make the parcel details (such as lot dimensions) more prominent

When zoomed in, the BrownDog mapping app defaults to show parcels labeled with land owner names.  A lot of people prefer this 'plat book' style map.  Other parcel details such as parcel ID number and lot dimensions are semi-transparent in an attempt to reduce 'clutter' on a map that is packed full of information.

If instead you want your map to emphasize the parcel ID, lot dimensions and other details instead of the land owners (like the GeoPrime map did),  there are two ways you can accomplish this:

1) On the Overlay Layers list, click the three dots (...) to the right of the Parcels layer, choose Transparency on the popup, then drag the slider to Opaque (0% transparency).   Turn off (uncheck) the Parcel Ownership layer.   Here is a screen shot to illustrate this:

2) Another option is to turn off the "Parcel Ownership" layer, then go to the "Basemap Gallery" button which is located near the upper right of the map (it's the 4 squares button) and then switch the background map to "Parcels".


Access archived parcel data from 2005, 2010, and 2014

You can view Brown County parcel records as "snapshots in time" .  This includes parcel data from 2005, 2010, and 2014.  These dates were chosen the parcel information coincides with the aerial photos of approximately the same date.

You can access this archival information from the BrownDog popup window (when you click on a parcel) or by clicking the links below:
 When you open these apps, you will see the parcel boundaries with land owner names as they existed at the published date.  You can click on parcels to pop up additional archived information including the assessed values of approximately the published date.


GeoPrime... BrownDog... Why more than one GIS mapping app? Which one should I use? Does one have more current data than the other?

Common questions I get lately, along with short answer plus a bit more explanation for those who really want to know more detail:
  • Why does Brown County offer more than one GIS mapping app? 
  • Are the map layers the same?  Is the data current on each?
  • GeoPrime ... BrownDog... Which one should I use? 
The short answer is:  Technology continues to evolve and we are doing the best we can to keep up without causing interruption to service.

Both GeoPrime and BrownDog use the same data source, so parcels and other information are up-to-date on each and in sync. 

However, we will have to retire GeoPrime (probably in 2018) because it is based on technology that is going away. Also in 2018, the Property Search page will be replaced with a new web portal for searching land records.  The new property search site will not link to GeoPrime for the GIS mapping.

If you want a more in-depth answer on the evolution of our online mapping sites, here is a brief history that might help explain:
  • In about 2001 or 2002, Brown County launched it's first online GIS mapping site. I don't think it had a name other than the generic "GIS mapping site"; All I can tell you is that was very clunky. But, it was better than nothing.
  • In 2008-09, "Adobe Flash" was all the rage when it came to internet graphics & web sites.  Around this time, we launched GeoPrime based on Flash technology to replace the old' site. The Flash software made our maps nice looking and made for smoother interaction. GeoPrime has been our flagship online mapping site for almost 10 years now.
  • Also around this time (2008-09), Apple released the iPhone and soon after iPads etc. The smart phones & tablets quickly became ubiquitous.  However, the Flash technology does not work well (or at all) on these devices.  A lot of our users began to complain that GeoPrime does not work for them. There have been security problems and other issues with Flash that have prevented many users from using GeoPrime at all.  Adobe has announced they will be killing Flash and discontinuing support for it.  Following suit, the company we purchased GeoPrime from also notified us that they are no longer supporting GeoPrime.  GeoPrime is not the future.
  • In response, Esri (our primary GIS software vendor) released "ArcGIS Online" several years ago. ArcGIS Online allows us to publish GIS maps and apps in a new way using modern, open internet technology.   It is on this platform we launched BrownDog and other online mapping apps that are designed to work within any browser or on any device including smart phones & tablets.
We have been putting time into building up the BrownDog to meet--and exceed--the capabilities offered in GeoPrime.  The BrownDog isn't quite there yet, but as of Dec 2017 we are getting close.  For example, just this week a new mailing label generator was developed since this capability began failing on GeoPrime.

We rely on our software vendor (Esri) to provide us with the tools and widgets, and they continue to release new and enhanced capabilities. From time to time I receive comments about the design, or questions like "can you change it to ....".  For this I rely mostly on the programmers and software design provided by Esri.

P.S.  Why is the site called "BrownDog"?
  • Long ago, our internal GIS had a custom button that helped our users do common GIS tasks more quickly.  To make this button stand out among the other ones, I gave it a unique icon that was in the form of a little brown dog.   Folks here in the office started to refer to it as "the dog".
  • When it was clear that GeoPrime needed replacement, we wanted to give it a name that was catchy and referenced Brown County somehow.  However, there isn't much we could do with "Brown".   "Brown Map" ...nope.  After kicking around other bad ideas and boring acronyms, we just decided to put our friendly puppy online.  We love our dogs, and of course I think my brown-ish dog, Sunny, is the best dog ever :)
One of the goals of this blog is to create a "user guide" to the BrownDog. Click the label "BrownDog" on this blog for articles about it. You might also be interested in some of the other news & information provided here.


Aerial photo update

The contractor was able to collect aerial imagery for parts of the county on Friday 4/7/17.  However, the airplane had engine difficulties and the mission had to be cut short.  The rest of the county will be flown at the next good weather opportunity.


New aerial photography

A spring 2017 flight is being planned for Brown County.  This flight will occur as soon as snow and ice are gone, as weather conditions allow.  We are looking to fly before significant leaf on. 

These photos will be made into digital orthophotography which will become a map layer on our GIS sites, including the BrownDog site.    It is anticipated these photos will be online by this fall.
This year's flight is made possible through contributions by Brown County Municipalities, Wisconsin Public Service, and various county departments.  It is great that we all came together as a community to make this flight happen!

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