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March 31. 2013 6:35PM

Orthoimagery provides detailed views of Milford

MILFORD - Through orthoimagery, town planners, code enforcement officers, even residents have access to a bird's- eye view of Milford and all of the properties that lie within its borders.



Orthoimagery combines aerial photography with high-tech precision mapping to create a highly-detailed overhead view of an area, according to Chris Phaneuf, of NH GRANIT, a project at the University of New Hampshire designed to create a statewide database of geographic information. The images don't replace traditional maps, said Phaneuf, but can be used to give greater detail than maps provide.

Milford's database of orthoimagery can be accessed from the town's web site and serves a number of purposes, said Dawn Griska, assistant to Town Administrator Guy Scaife.

The images, last taken in 2010, offer clear unobstructed views of water bodies, woodlands and every building in town.

The images are connected to other databases that reveal information about each building or lot. By clicking on a particular home or building, the database reveals some of the same information that can be found on a tax card at town hall, including the name of the property owner and how many buildings are on the property, among other details.

Town officials can use that information for many purposes, said Griska. Wetlands, for instance, are easily identifiable, as are the locations of trees and power lines.

For assessing or code enforcement purposes, the images can be used to ensure that a property owner isn't building too close to a property line, or constructing outbuildings and not being taxed on them.

"We can see if someone is clear-cutting trees or has a junk yard in the middle of the woods that shouldn't be there," said Griska.

The images have also been helpful in terms of public safety, according to Director of Planning and Community Development Bill Parker.

"They've come in handy with search and rescues and for police when having to investigate problems out in the wild lands like Mile Slip Town Forest," said Parker.

The database, which is available to the public at http://ags.cdm.com/milfordnh/, also gives residents a way to look at their town from a different perspective, to see where hiking trails lead, for instance, or to find places to fish or kayak that can't be seen from the road.

But the photos need to be updated regularly in order to stay relevant, said Griska, and the town is currently seeking someone to take new images.

"A lot of stuff changes quickly, so we need to keep up with those changes," Griska said.

Parker said the town has budgeted up to $25,000 to update the images but the town hasn't received any bids as of yet.

And while some folks may see the photographs and information as an invasion of privacy, Griska said it's a question everyone seems to be grappling with as technology advances.

"We didn't open the box, but we're walking around in it," she said.



nfoster@newstote.com

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