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A Guide to Understanding Land Surveys, 3rd Edition

ISBN: 978-0-470-23058-9
272 pages
December 2008, ©2009
A Guide to Understanding Land Surveys, 3rd Edition (0470230584) cover image

Description

The nonsurveyor's definitive land survey sourcebook—now extensively updated

Over the last several decades, the Internet has allowed individuals with a non-technical background to assume more control of land surveys. But without a clear understanding of how to accurately use land survey data, and faced with the challenges of communicating specific requirements to a professional land surveyor, conflicts often arise that lead to litigation.

A Guide to Understanding Land Surveys bridges the ever-expanding communication gap between the users of land boundary information and professional land surveyors.

This indispensable guide clearly explains the functions and procedures required in every survey (routine or otherwise), and the role of a surveyor in their investigation and re-establishment. It is a must-have resource for title attorneys, paralegals, realtors, government agents, and others who rely on the information gathered and presented by land surveys.

Written in nontechnical language and supported by numerous line drawings, A Guide to Understanding Land Surveys not only helps readers gain a strong familiarity with a survey, plat, or land description, but enables them to accurately evaluate it, detect any inadequacies, and make the proper adjustments to obtain approval.

The Third Edition of A Guide to Understanding Land Surveys has been expanded with thirty percent new material and is fully updated to reflect the latest practice guidelines and technology, including the use of GPS and GIS in land boundary re-establishment. Also included is important new material on how technology should be interpreted in assessing the quality and accuracy of a land survey.

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Table of Contents

PREFACE xv

1 PURPOSE OF THE BOOK 1

2 REAL PROPERTY ON A ROUND PLANET 7

2.1. Ownership 7

2.2. Title 8

2.3. Boundaries 8

2.4. Deed 9

2.5. Identifying Boundaries 9

2.5.1. Geography 9

2.5.2. Latitude 10

2.5.3. Longitude 12

2.5.4. Astronomic Position 14

2.5.5. Geodetic Position 14

2.5.6. Flat-Earthers 15

2.6. Corners 17

3 GEOMETRY 19

3.1. Plane Geometry 19

3.2. Land Point 21

3.3. Land Line 22

3.4. Straight Land Line 23

3.5. Plumb Line 24

3.6. Level 24

3.7. Land Distances 24

3.8. Elevation 26

3.9. Land Area 27

3.10. Horizontal Angles 27

3.11. Vertical Angles 29

3.12. Degrees, Minutes, and Seconds 29

3.13. Maps or Plats 29

4 DEFINING NORTH 33

4.1. True North 33

4.2. Astronomic North 34

4.3. Magnetic North 34

4.4. Assumed North 35

4.5. Grid North 35

4.6. Directions 35

4.7. Azimuths 37

4.8. Bearings 37

5 PROJECTION SYSTEMS 43

5.1. Projectionless Map  43

5.2. Tangent Plane Projections 44

5.3. Advantages of Tangent Plane Systems 46

5.4. Disadvantages of Tangent Plane Systems 47

5.5. State Plane Projections 48

5.6. Advantages of State Plane Projections 51

5.7. Disadvantages of the State Plane Projection 52

6 FUNDAMENTALS OF MEASUREMENTS 55

6.1. Accuracy and Precision 56

6.2. Implied Precision 56

6.3. Errors 57

6.3.1. Systematic Errors 58

6.3.2. Random Errors 58

6.3.3. Blunders 58

6.4. All Measurements Include Errors 58

6.5. Reduction of Errors 59

6.6. Development of Standard Procedures 60

6.7. Colonial Period 62

6.8. Post–Civil War Period 68

6.9. Beginning of the Modern Period 69

6.9.1. Compass Rule 73

6.9.2. Transit Rule 77

6.9.3. Crandall’s Rule 77

6.9.4. Least Squares Adjustment 77

6.10. Modern Period 78

6.11. Random Traverse 80

6.12. Elevations in the Modern Period 84

6.13. Future of Surveying 86

7 LAND RECORD SYSTEMS 89

7.1. Metes and Bounds System 91

7.1.1. Reading a Metes and Bounds Description 95

7.2. U.S. Public Land System (USPLS) 102

7.2.1. Initial Point 103

7.2.2. Principal Meridian 103

7.2.3. Baseline 104

7.2.4. Township and Range Lines 105

7.2.5. Ideal Township 105

7.2.6. Ideal Section 107

7.2.7. Irregular Sections 110

7.2.8. USPLS General Instructions 111

7.2.9. Government Surveyor’s Original Notes 111

7.2.10. Nonaliquot Division of a USPLS Section 115

7.2.11. Private Claims 117

7.3. Platted Subdivision or Urban Systems 118

8 THE GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM (GPS) 123

8.1. Overview 123

8.2. Fundamentals 124

8.3. GPS and Land Surveys 124

8.4. CORS Networks 126

8.5. Practical Application 127

8.6. Strengths 128

8.7. Weaknesses 129

8.8. Coping with Reality 129

9 THE GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEM (GIS) REVOLUTION 131

9.1. Building a Foundation 131

9.2. Sources of Information 132

9.3. System Maintenance 132

9.4. Potential Users 133

9.5. Potential for Misapplication 133

10 BOUNDARY RECOVERY 135

10.1. Rules of Evidence 135

10.2. Sources of Evidence 136

10.3. Office Procedure 137

10.4. Field Procedure 137

10.5. Rendering a Decision 138

10.6. USPLS Boundary Recovery 139

10.6.1. Accessories to a Corner 141

10.6.2. Recovered Corners 141

10.6.3. Deciphering Government Land Office (GLO) Notes 142

10.6.4. Passing Calls 142

10.6.5. Perpetuated Corner 143

10.6.6. Corner by Common Report 143

10.6.7. Corner Reset by Best Evidence 144

10.6.8. Corner Reset by Proportionate Measurement 144

10.7. Metes and Bounds Boundary Recovery 144

10.8. Platted Subdivision Boundary Recovery 145

11 EVALUATING SURVEY PLATS 147

11.1. Plat Evaluation Checklist 147

11.2. Determining the Land Record System Used 148

11.2.1. Recognizing a Metes and Bounds Description 149

11.2.2. Recognizing a USPLS 152

11.2.3. Recognizing Platted Subdivisions 152

11.3. Determining the Map Projection Used 153

11.3.1. Recognizing a Projectionless System 153

11.3.2. Recognizing a Tangent Plane Projection System 154

11.3.3. Recognizing a State Plane Projection System 154

11.4. Evaluating the Age of the Survey 155

11.5. Determining the Purpose of the Survey 156

11.5.1. Land Title Surveys 156

11.6. Examining the Survey for Gross Discrepancies 157

11.7. North Arrow 157

11.8. Legal Description 157

11.9. Date of the Survey 158

11.10. Name of the Surveyor 158

11.11. Signature and Seal 159

11.12. Adjoining Properties 159

11.13. Dimensions of All Sides 160

11.14. Bearing or Angles 160

11.15. Name of Client, Purpose of Survey 161

11.16. Certification 161

11.17. Limiting Words or Phrases 162

11.18. Area 162

11.19. Scale 163

11.20. Comparing the Survey Plat with the Deed 163

11.21. Examining the Survey Plat for Easements 164

11.22. Examining the Survey Plat for Encroachments 165

11.22.1. Fences and Fence Lines 165

11.23. Determining the Precision Required 168

11.23.1 “Class A. Urban Surveys” 169

11.23.2 “Class B. Suburban Surveys” 169

11.23.3 “Class C. Rural Surveys” 170

11.23.4 “Class D. Mountain and Marshland Surveys” 170

11.24. Determining Needs Not Covered in a Survey Plat 170

11.25. Contacting the Surveyor 171

12 EXERCISES IN EVALUATING SURVEY PLATS 173

12.1. The Case of the Three Partners 173

12.1.1. Conclusion 176

12.2. The Land Grabber 181

12.3. Easement Surprise 186

12.4. Excessive Problems 189

12.5. Metes Meets Bounds 192

12.6. The Square That Wasn’t There 196

13 WRITING LEGAL DESCRIPTIONS 203

13.1. Creating New Parcels 204

13.2. Existing Parcels 205

13.3. General Outline 205

13.4. The Caption 206

13.5. The Narrative 207

13.6. Key Phrases 208

13.6.1 “Commencing At” 208

13.6.2 “Point-of-Beginning” 208

13.6.3 “Thence” and “;” 209

13.6.4 “In a —ly Direction” 209

13.6.5 “-Most” 211

13.6.6 “Along” 211

13.6.7 “A Distance Of” 211

13.6.8 “To” and “To a Point” 213

13.6.9 “That Same Point” 214

13.6.10 “Point of Curvature” and “Point of Tangency” 214

13.6.11 “From Whence Bears” and “Distant” 216

13.6.12 “Encompassing an Area Of” 216

13.7. Deletions or Additions 217

13.8. References 218

14 EXERCISES IN WRITING DEED DESCRIPTIONS 219

14.1. Case 1 219

14.2. Case 2 223

14.3. Case 3 224

15 ETHICS AND PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT 227

15.1. Confidentiality 228

15.2. Professional Courtesy 228

15.3. Impartial Evaluation 229

15.4. Promote Professionalism 229

APPENDIX OF TABLES 231

GLOSSARY 237

INDEX 245

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Author Information

Stephen V. Estopinal, PLS, PE, is Senior Engineer/Surveyor at Chenevert Songy Rodi Soderberg (CSRS), an architectural, civil engineering, and program manage--ment service company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was formerly the owner of Estopinal Surveying and Engineering, Inc., in Chalmette, Louisiana, and has been in the practice of land surveying for more than forty years. A columnist for Professional Surveyor magazine, he is a frequent lecturer on surveying matters and regularly serves as an expert witness.

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