Update: New Articles Published for December 2016

I’ve just published the December 2016 Issue of the California Supremes on Land and Water. In this issue I begin a review of the case Mansell Versus the City of Long Beach. This Supreme Court Decisions deals with issues related to tidelands, riparian boundaries, and land title.

You can download the new issue as a PDF file.

You can also subscribe to the California Supremes on Land and Water and our other publications.

The December 2016 Issue of the Cornerstone Boundary Surveying Newsletter has just been published. This issue contains for articles:

  1. “Going the Distance”. This article looks at the 4 types of distances we show on boundary survey maps.
  2. “GIS for Linear Boundaries – Part 2”. This article is our second in a series that explores how to apply GIS to the maintenance of linear boundaries.
  3. “A Review of Prewitt Versus Norsworthy”. In this article, I review a court case from Texas dealing with chain-of-title and adverse possession.
  4. “A Review of IBLA 181-291”. In this article, I review an IBLA decision dealing with dependent resurveys and the doctrine of boundary-by-agreement.

You can download the December 2016 Issue of the Cornerstone Boundary Surveying Newsletter as a PDF file.

You can also subscribe to the Cornerstone Boundary Surveying Newsletter and our other publications.

Thanks!

Landon

 

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Update: In The Hopper – Public Surveyors

I wanted to let you guys know about a few items I’m working on related to the professional work of public surveyors:

  1. The first item is a lead article for the upcoming issue of California Surveyor Magazine. (This is the Fall 2016 Issue if the magazine.) The article is entitled “Why Every City Needs a Strong City Surveyor”. It features an interview with Turlock City Surveyor Rich Fultz.
  2. The second item is the first in a new series of articles about the relationship between public agencies and private land surveying companies. Selected articles from this series will also be published in the California Surveyor Magazine, including this first article in the series. The first article will discuss the consequences of legal and ethical violations during the selection of consulting land surveying services by public agencies. Future articles in the series will talk about prevailing wage, qualifications-based selections, and land surveying services request-for-proposals.
  3. The third item is an article and infographic entitled “The 5 Worst Mistakes You Make In Your RFP for Land Surveying Services”.
  4. The fourth item is a second article related to the role of a strong city surveyor. It is entitled “The Problems With 2 Common Alternatives to a Strong City Surveyor’. The article examines dual licensed survey/civil professionals and contract land surveyors in the city surveyor role.

I hope to have all of this content published by the end of October.

Landon

Update: In The Hopper

I wanted to give you guys a quick update on some of the articles I’m currently working on. These should all be published before the end of the year. In the Fall 2016 Issue of the California Surveyor Magazine I should have 4 new articles:

  • A Review of Brothers Inc Versus Johnsons: This is the first article in a short series looking at the role of the land surveyor in adverse possession. In this first article we discuss the recent court decision from Louisiana in which an erroneous survey led to a successful claim of adverse possession against a 170 foot wide strip of land between two parcels.
  • A Review of IBLA 99-363 (Part 1):  This is the first article in a series of articles reviewing IBLA decisions related to land surveying and land title. This article is the first part of a set of articles in the series examining a recent IBLA decision from Washington state in which the BLM’s rejection of a corner stone led to major building encroachments onto federal land.
  • Understanding Survey Error Adjustment (Part 1): This is the first article in a series that will explain survey error adjustment basics using an easy-to-understand teaching style and basic math. It will also feature working error adjustment software written in Java and Groovy and released under an open source license. Although the article series will teach the weighted least squares adjustment method popular among surveyors today, it will cover a variety of other topics related to error adjustment. These topics will include alternate adjustment methods, creating measurement error statements for maps, analyzing and reporting measurement error, and creating error budgets when planning surveys. The goal of the article series is to put basic error adjustment tools into the hands of every surveyor. The first article in this series will provide basic definitions, will look at the components of a survey measurement system, and will look at the 3 main types of errors in survey measurements.
  • The Structure of California Land Planning Authority: This is an introductory article on land use planning law in California. It will look at the structure of land use planning authority, with a basic description of the general plan, specific plan, zoning regulations, and subdivision regulation. It will be the first article in a series that explains land use planning to land surveyors, and examines real life examples from the plans and regulations of two very different California Cities.
  • The 5 Mistake Public Agencies Make When Issuing an RFP for Land Surveying Services: In this article series members of the ACEC California Qualifications Based Selection Committee will examine common mistakes, misunderstandings and best practices for the acquisition of land surveying services in California. The first article in the series will examine the worst mistakes a public agency can make when issuing an RFP.

I’ll make regular posts in the future to this category on our web site about upcoming work on articles, workshops, and online courses.

Landon

Article: Corner Stone Boundary Surveying Newsletter – Don’t Practice Land Law When You Write Land Descriptions

This article is available with graphics as a PDF.

A land surveyor is under contract to prepare plats and land descriptions for a subdivision by deed, which is still allowed in my home state of California if the resulting parcels are large enough. The client wants to divide his existing parcel, the south 2000’ of the 6000’ wide Hooper Tract, into 3 parcels of roughly equal size. Diagram #1 shows the proposed parcel configuration. The client also asks the land surveyor to add several clauses to his land description to address site access, a future proposed railroad spur and ongoing agricultural activities. Here are the resulting land descriptions:

Parcel A
The parcel of land situated in the Sante Fe Land Grant, Hooper Tract, Russel County, California, more particularly described as follows:

The west 2,000 feet of the South 2,000 feet of Hooper Tract lying northerly of the West Ridge Railroad Right-of-Way.

Subject to a right-of-way for a proposed railroad spur along the existing railroad right-of-way and the south line of Hooper Tract.

Together with a 20 foot wide access easement along the north line of the east 4000 feet of the south 2,000 feet of Hooper Tract.

Said land is to be reserved for agricultural uses only. All parcels have a shared right to water from the main agricultural irrigation well located on the southwest corner of Parcel C.

Parcel B
The parcel of land situated in the Sante Fe Land Grant, Hooper Tract, Russel County, California, more particularly described as follows:

The South 2,000 feet of Hooper Tract lying northerly of the West Ridge Railroad Right-of-Way.

Excepting the West 2,000 feet and the East 2,000 of the South 2000 Feet of Hooper Tract.

Subject to a right-of-way for a proposed railroad spur along the existing railroad right-of-way and the south line of Hooper Tract.

Subject to a 20 foot wide access easement along the north line of the east 400 feet of Hooper Tract.

Said land is to be reserved for agricultural uses only. All parcels have a shared right to water from the main agricultural irrigation well located on the southwest corner of Parcel C.

Parcel C
The parcel of land situated in the Sante Fe Land Grant, Hooper Tract, Russel County, California, more particularly described as follows:

The east 2,000 feet of the South 2,000 feet of Hooper Tract lying northerly of the West Ridge Railroad Right-of-Way.

Subject to a 20 foot wide access easement along the north line of the east 400 feet of Hooper Tract.

Together with a right-of-way for a proposed railroad spur along the existing railroad right-of-way and the south line of Hooper Tract.

Said land is to be reserved for agricultural uses only. All parcels have a shared right to water from the main agricultural irrigation well located on the southwest corner of Parcel C.

Analysis

Before I dig into my critique of these land descriptions, let me lay a strong opinion out on the table. I think many boundary surveyors know more about real property than many practicing attorneys and judges. In many situations, the boundary surveyor is the most important expert on a team of professionals dealing with issues related to land use, land development, or land management. Having made that admission, I think land surveyors need to be more cautious about practicing land law if they aren’t licensed as attorneys.

Let’s assume that our land surveyor has the location of these parcels technically correct. What other problems are there with his land descriptions?
I would argue that land surveyors are uniquely qualified to deal with the location and extent of property in a land description, but not with issues related to the way land is used. They can describe the spatial aspects of property rights, but not the rights themselves. That should be done by a qualified land attorney.

Problems Caused By Land Description Statements

Let’s consider a couple of the problem statements from the land descriptions we listed above:

  1. Subject to an easement for a proposed railroad spur along the existing railroad right-of-way and the south line of Hooper Tract.
    Why is this statement dangerous? The first obvious problem is the exact location of the proposed railroad spur right-of-way isn’t well defined. Where is that proposed right-of-way on the ground? What happens if the railroad decides not to build the spur? Is the right-of-way being created as a fee or easement?
  2. Said land is to be reserved for agricultural uses only. All parcels have a shared right to water from the main agricultural irrigation well located on the southwest corner of Parcel C.

This statement is full of hazards. Does the land surveyor even know if it is legal to restrict land use by means of a conveyance in this way? What exactly is an “agricultural use”? Do golf courses or wineries count? What about an organic farmers market? Is this a permanent restriction on the land, or does it change with the local land use regulation authorizes development? Who will monitor compliance with the restriction?

The questions created by these two (2) statements are good examples of why boundary surveyors shouldn’t practice land law when the write land descriptions. Most of us aren’t qualified to do that. When we enter this gray area, or cross clearly into the practice of land law, we harm our clients, the neighbors of our client, and future land owners. Many well-meaning boundary surveyors will gladly add a statement to their land description at the request of the client. Unless we are working closely with a land attorney, we shouldn’t.

Other Problems

What other problems are caused by inappropriate statements placed in the land descriptions for these three (3) parcels? What problems could the statements related to the use of the agricultural well cause? What conflicts could arise from the agricultural land use restriction that has been placed in the land descriptions?

Please share your comments with us. You can e-mail them to sunburned.surveyor@redefinedhorizons.com. Put “May 2015 (First Half) Feature Article” in the subject line of your e-mail.

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