I have a point feature class that consists of a systematic grid of points across a landscape. I also have a shapefile consisting of several polygons. For each point in the feature class, I'd like to calculate the distance to the nearest polygon edge.

It seems like one of those things that shouldn't be too difficult, but I've investigated countless potential solutions/similar questions on StackExchange as well as Google and have yet to come up with a solution that fits my needs. Some solutions have suggested converting vertices to points and then estimating point to point distance, but I fear that vertices alone aren't an accurate representation of edge (especially since these polygons have a large extent and are rectangular in shape).

I am using ArcGIS 10.2 for Desktop.

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    Sep 26, 2016 at 2:32

1 Answer 1


I would approach this as follows:

  1. Convert your polygons into lines (by which each edge of the polygons - a line between the consequent vertices - will become a line feature in the output feature class.) After the conversion, the output lines will preserve their "parent" polygon ID. Use GP tool: Feature To Line.

  2. Take each point and then find out which line feature is the closest. By finding out this and the distance, you will be able to join points to the polygons thereafter based on the source polygon ID. This will tell to what source polygon each point has min distance (if needed). Use GP tool: Near.

In this example, I am finding to which parcel every water fitting is closest to: enter image description here

  • Thanks! I independently reached the same solution right before you answered, but this confirmed that I was correct. One of my problems was that points that fell within the polygons had a distance of 0 according to the Near tool, but converting polygon to line solved that issue.
    – Beth S.
    Apr 23, 2015 at 16:13
  • 1
    @BethS., this is correct. Since we are working with polygon edges, it is important to let software consider individual geometries of the lines that the polygon consists of. Hope you have found a way to join the tables afterwards, just in case here is the link: resources.arcgis.com/en/help/main/10.2/index.html#//… Apr 23, 2015 at 18:08

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