Rep. Spears introduces legislation to update, make public state Geographic Information System


Bill is part of Speaker Shekarchi’s 2024 legislative package addressing the housing crisis in Rhode Island


STATE HOUSE – Rep. Tina Spears has introduced legislation to put a more detailed statewide Geographic Information System (GIS) online in coordination with municipalities, nonprofits and state agencies.

“More complete information about the geography of Rhode Island means more informed and better decisions, whether for conservation or development,” said Representative Spears (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly). “A uniform and detailed statewide GIS will allow us all a much better understanding of Rhode Island’s natural resources, open spaces and buildable land. This will help municipalities, developers, conservation groups, policy-makers and the public to make more informed decisions about their communities and the state as a whole.”

While the Department of Administration is working on building a statewide GIS, this legislation (2024-H 7985) enhances that system by adding information and making the resulting system public. It would ensure the Department of Administration coordinate with municipalities, nonprofits and state agencies to incorporate zoning, wetlands and floodplain information in addition to the already included economic, physical, cultural and natural resources in the statewide GIS. It also mandates that information be publicly available online in a comprehensive statewide geographic information system that includes all 39 municipalities by January 1, 2026.

The final map would include property information, existing land uses, zoning districts, flood zones, estimated wetlands locations, areas serviced by water and sewer and dedicated open space areas.

A goal of this bill is to help standardize GIS between municipalities and provide publicly available GIS in municipalities that do not have it due to lack of staff and resources.

“Many nonprofits and state agencies already have GIS in place,” said Representative Spears. “This bill highlights the need for cooperation to ensure that this work is shared and that all the relevant information is displayed in a transparent, public resource.”

The bill was heard in the House Municipal Government and Housing Committee Tuesday. It was held for further study to allow the committee to review the bill and the testimony submitted on its behalf.