I am iterating through a point shapefile to assign the points to buffer zones that they fall within, because some points fall within several buffer zones I am doing this using the Append tool into a pre-made shapefile so I will have a copy of each point for every buffer zone it is in. I have this set up in ModelBuilder currently using the Clip tool to 'clip' my points by my buffer, if the output is empty I move on, and if it is not then I assign the new points the buffer ID and append them to my final point shapefile.enter image description here

However it is running very slow and I have about 11,000 buffer zones in total to get through. Previously I had been using Select By Location on my points instead of clip, but I realized that if no points were selected (as happens with this data set) then ALL of my point are assigned that buffer ID and appended to my final shapefile. I need to find a way to prevent the Calculate Field and Append tools from running if no rows are selected, but I can't seem to make that work. I know the Get Count tool would only work for that if I was using the Select tool, is there any other way to work this? Is there a Get Count but only for selected rows?

This leg of my model seems to be the slowest one.

  • Get_Count like all the other tools returns only the selected records however if there isn't a selection it will return all of them. You will need to get an Original Count and a Select Count then branch if Select Count > 0 and Select Count < Original Count (use Calculate Value). I find this type of iteration is so much easier to code in python than to do in model builder with Get Count. Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 5:09
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    I too much prefer to work in python, especially with iteration (Model Builder iterators are frustrating in my opinion), however this is not my project, I was tasked with building and annotating a model for a PhD student to learn from. I tried to explain learning from an annotated python script would be easier but this is the way I have to do it. Thanks for the tip!
    – AlmaThom
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 19:07
  • I share your opinion on model builder iterators. Sorry I can't be more helpful; every time I anticipate an iteration I start with python and only create models that do not iterate. IMO models were supposed to be a simple way for non-programmers to create a process, a teaser for scripting, which would coax the user into exporting the script to python and iterating there. Trying to iterate/complicate a model is bordering on exceeding the scope of what models are supposed to do. You would think that a PhD student would be eager to learn python! Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 21:47

1 Answer 1


If you have the spatial analysis extension, you should be able to get good results with the spatial join tool using a one-to-many operation.

eg. arcpy.SpatialJoin_analysis(points_file, buffers_file, output_file, "JOIN_ONE_TO_MANY")

You can also choose which fields you would like to keep, so you can just keep the field which identifies the buffer.

  • Thank you! I knew there was a tool I was forgetting and that was it. I didn't have the Spatial Analysis extension for a long time and it slipped my mind what was in it.
    – AlmaThom
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 19:16

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