Is the Parcel Fabric worth the squeeze?


"Is the Juice worth the squeeze?" is one of my favorite expressions - it so clearly focuses the decisions we make, especially relating to technology. I am reminded of this today as I was discussing with two of our clients whether to remap their parcels in the Parcel Fabric for parcel maintenance purposes.

By far, the greatest challenge with the Parcel Fabric is transitioning from your current data model into the highly structured Local Government Information Model. 

You may currently be using a "cartographic" data model in which you use lines and pieces of text to convey information about the features contained on your map. While this model is great if your primary focus is in producing that map, it does not provide a complete picture as far as this elements on which you wish to store information.  For example, you may only store lines showing where the extent of lots differ from the extent of tax parcels, or you may store pieces of text to convey dimensions instead of actually storing the information as an attribute of the lines.  While not trivial, these deficiencies can be overcome for the transition into the Parcel Fabric.

Or, you may have issues with topology.  Storing features in separate feature classes, or "layers" often leads to having features that do not "line up" with features in other layers. While not difficult to correct, especially with the many topology tools in ArcGIS, the process is often time consuming and tedious.  Be warned, this MUST be corrected prior to transition into the Parcel Fabric. While there are procedures for correcting these issues in the  Parcel Fabric, it is far easier to only import features that align with each other.

Finally, you may find you have issues with the spatial location of your features. While there are many ways to correct the spatial location in the Parcel Fabric, including moving the features, and least squares adjustments, since features in the Parcel Fabric are interconnected, when you move one feature, it will change any connected feature.

I am a licensed Surveyor in several states who has been involved in GIS for over three decades and, without a doubt, the Parcel Fabric is the best data model we have seen for the storage and maintenance of land records. The Parcel Fabric is the first data model that allows us to keep and maintain essential information about a particular parcel within the model.  What is the document that created, modified or defined this parcel? Is there a digital copy of that document available for viewing? What are the dimensions of the boundary as shown on the originating document? What are the mapped dimensions? What rotation or scaling had to be performed to make the parcel fit? Are there differing boundary dimensions for the adjoining parcels? What are the lines associated with a specific parcel? These are just a few of the questions that the Parcel Fabric allows us to answer.

We plan on discussing in an upcoming post the advantages of the Parcel Fabric, but, for now, understand that, while the data model is a great incentive for transitioning, the maintenance of your land records is the main reason to consider moving into the Parcel Fabric.

While not perfect, the tools that ESRI has built for the Parcel Editor continue to get better and better with each new release. I am amazed by the fact that a single tool can perform in one step as many as five separate steps required when editing features that are stored with corresponding topology rules. Granted, you must take the time to learn and understand these new tools to truly become efficient with the procedures, but, as with all things in life, this efficiency comes with time and experience.

We provide parcel maintenance services for many counties and, after transitioning all of these counties into the Parcel Fabric, we find that the time we spend on the actual maintenance of the data is greatly reduced, more controlled and reproducible, and we are better able to document and track the results of this maintenance. As a matter of fact, we have seen reductions of the time it takes to perform this maintenance of up to 50%.  That, my friends, is the main reason to consider, and transition your parcel data into the Parcel Fabric.

The Parcel Fabric is worth the squeeze.