Open Space Inventory

With funding from The Nature Conservancy, WestCOG is developing an open space inventory to assist with flood resilience programs.

Mike and Tucker walk you through the project scope.

Protected open space is an important factor for flood resilience and is a foundational component to the flood mitigation strategies developed through FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS). Protected open spaces not only provide a buffer between developed properties but also absorbs impacts from destructive high-water flow during a flood event. FEMA’s CRS program incentivizes communities to protect open space in flood zones and, once the community is within the program, further incentivizes communities to expand their flood mitigation activities.

Current inventories of open space are severely outdated (not updated since 2008) and updates currently require substantial effort to update. Additionally, many open space inventories do not collect open space information within the quality of criteria necessary to document and verify properties within the CRS program. No readily available and easily calculated estimate of CRS creditable open space exists within Fairfield County except for those few communities who are currently active in the program.

An updated and regularly maintained inventory for Fairfield County would allow communities to see where they stand, incentivize communities to join the CRS program, and reduce municipal labor for communities currently active in the program.

Deliverables

This program aims to develop a repeatable partially automated process to update and collect open space data within Fairfield County alongside an outreach campaign to encourage communities to take advantage of its open space credits. In summary the outputs include:

  • Updated Open Space Inventory. Open space data for Fairfield County would be updated to 2021 status. WestCOG would coordinate with MetroCOG to ensure the full capture of Fairfield County data.
  • Repeatable Data Maintenance. WestCOG would develop a procedure to update and maintain the open space inventory data so it can be repeatably useful for communities and to maintain the incentives for communities to join the CRS program.
  • Statewide Open Space Data Standard. The schema for open space inventory will be comprehensive and through CT DEEP and the CT GIS Network WestCOG will work to have this model adopted as the state standard for open space data.
  • CRS Incentives Web App. Title may change, but in essence it’s a web viewer for communities to see their protected open space, the amount of eligible CRS credits they achieved, links to join the CRS program, and a download option to acquire the documentation for this CRS credit. This web application would be heavily referenced during the outreach campaigns to encourage communities to join the program.

Scope and Schedule

This project is broken down into 8 components and is expected to be completed around mid November 2021.

  1. Kick Off Meeting. An initial Flood Resilience & CRS Kick Off Meeting with Planners and stakeholders in the region to outline the targets and schedule of this initiative. To be hosted virtually and recorded.
  2. Open Space Schema. A schema will have to be developed for an open space dataset such that it meets local, regional, and CRS program needs.
  3. Open Space Inventory. The collection and categorization of all existing open space properties within Fairfield County stored within the developed Open Space Schema.
  4. CRS Verification. This is an additional data collection effort where the open space properties are verified according to CRS standards that the properties are indeed open space under the definitions set by the CRS program. Typically, this comes in the form of land deeds or easements (scanned copies).
  5. Process & Automation. A replicable process is to be developed that allows for the training of other COGs and staff to develop the same program and to continue moving forward after the project completion. This process will allow the COGs to maintain an authoritative open space layer. Opportunities for automation will be explored.
  6. Outreach. Emails, Websites, and newsletters will go out to have communities informed regarding this project, and the potential benefits and current standings within the CRS program.
  7. Web Application. A web application will be developed to showcase where these properties are throughout Fairfield County and the extent of potential CRS credits and savings a town could achieve if they were active in the program.
  8. State Standard. The Schema will be posted through the CT GIS Network and through the Office of Policy and Management as a state standard for open space inventories.

Time Line

This project is aimed to wrap up by mid November 2021.