As the state wrestles with finding a balance between conservation and development, the Department of Environmental Protection and the University of Connecticut’s Center for Land Use Education and Research, launched a Web site Tuesday that makes it easier for individuals or local officials to research whether a specific geographic region may be better for residential development or a berry farm. 

The new Connecticut Environmental Conditions Online or CT ECO Web site, which was part of a 2007 responsible growth initiative, “will be an excellent tool for folks making local land use decisions,” DEP Commissioner Amey Marrella said Tuesday.

Marcia Banach, director of planning in South Windsor, said the geographic information system, also known as the GIS map reader is a costly tool for many small towns to purchase and is available on this new Web site for free.

“With CT ECO anyone is able to do GIS planning,” Banach said.

She said it means land use committee’s like the Open Space Task Force in South Windsor can research and analyze parcels online before they come to the meeting. In the past the GIS information was handed out at the meeting because only certain town employees had access to the information.

Kip Kolesinkas, a state soil scientist, said developers can use the Web site to determine if a specific area of a certain town is a good place for a residential development. It can even go into detail about whether the soil is good for installation of a septic system. And for those interested in opening up a berry farm can research whether a specific parcel contains a large amount of “farmland soils.”

What’s great about the Web site is that “everyone will be able to have access to the information,” Kolesinkas said.

Howie Sternberg, who works in the GIS program at the DEP, said they were able to collect data electronically from some cities and towns, but not all 169 municipalities have computerized systems. Some still just have paper maps.

The information included on the site is the best information the state and federal government had at the time it was created, Sternberg said. He said there has to be some sort of incentive offered in the future to get the towns to adhere to some sort of standard for keeping computerized records. An estimated 150 of the 169 town did provide electronic parcel data to the state for the site.

A DEP spokesman said the Web site cost about $300,000 to create.