Maryland Department of Planning Bundles Property Data With QGIS

This past week, I got an e-mail from Jim Cannistra, Director of Data Planning Services and the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP), alerting me to a new product available from MDP called FINDER Quantum. This product bundles Maryland property data and related products with QGIS software to provide users with a fully-functional, free-standing system for interacting with the data. It is designed to replace an older, custom software product, capitalizing on an industry-standard open-source system.

From the MDP site, the bundled data includes:

The product DVD includes the State’s computerized property (tax) maps; the x,y linkages (point or polygon) to the Parcel, Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) and Sale datasets; Parcel, CAMA and Sale data, including Sale data via download from the Subscriber Website, from the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT); reference grids including a grid for the property (tax) maps, an ADC map book grid, a grid for the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) road, stream and feature maps and a grid for USGS 7.5’ Topographical quad maps; and additional SHA files including a digital centerline roads file, data derived from SHA digital grid maps, an SHA major roads file and a county boundary file.

Also included are land use/land cover data; congressional and legislative district boundary files; census geography and census demographic data; ZIP code boundary files; Priority Funding Area (PFA) designations; floodplain data, including DFIRM data for selected jurisdictions; protected lands boundaries; watershed data; generalized zoning designations; sewer service area boundaries; public water service area boundaries for selected jurisdictions; National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) Maryland coverage; residential Sales x,y point and summary files derived from SDAT Parcel and Sale data; large-scale, high resolution color digital-ortho imagery and a custom Quantum GIS project file (.qgs).

The MDP site indicates there is a licensing fee (PDF), which I assume is to cover the management of the data sets and the license agreement, while acknowledging the GPL license of QGIS itself, seems to place the actual FINDER extension itself outide of any open-source license. (I am not a lawyer so I’ll accept guidance on that interpretation.) That said, bundling QGIS with data that the statewide user community values and an application to help exploit it is a great way to get more users on board with QGIS.

To that end, users that choose to take advantage of FINDER Quantum will want to keep in mind that great QGIS-related resources are available via Salisbury State University and that training is also available from Randal Hale of North River Geographics. Once you have this powerful application installed, you can start to tap into a deep pool of resources to build your expertise.

So kudos to MDP for bundling their data with a powerful mapping, visualization, and analysis tool in QGIS. I hope that, in the near future, MDP considers making the FINDER application itself open-source but this is a great first step.