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Easements (in VA in particular)

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Andy Bruner
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@aliquot Manholes make pretty dang good monuments for the center of an easement.  10 feet (or 30 feet for construction easements) on either side of the line between the manholes isn't too difficult to determine.

If you are being paid say $100,000 to design and stake a sanitary sewer line it becomes a bit difficult to tell the client that the cost of surveying for the easements will be $250,000 because I've got to locate and resolve property lines on 100 properties up to hundreds of acres each.

We had one client that (after a contract was signed) demanded that a surveyor's seal be placed on every easement sketch.  When told that the additional cost would be approximately double the contract amount they reconsidered their demand.  In Georgia, if you place your seal on a drawing, you certify that the survey meets all the requirements of a legal survey.  To certify that I would have to locate every corner of every property that the line crossed, no matter how small or how large.

Of course the VAST majority of our work was rural/suburban.  Work within an urban environment is a totally different story.

Andy

 
Posted : November 26, 2022 8:22 am
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FairbanksLS
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@andy-bruner 

Manholes make great monuments. Unfortunately they usually have offset tops.

 
Posted : November 26, 2022 8:57 am
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aliquot
(@aliquot)
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@holy-cow I must ve missing part of the discussion.  What am I bickering about? When did we start talking about monuments being taken out? Whoever is putting the infrastructure in clearly should be responsible for replacing the monuments. 

The cost of locating an easement is a cost of doing business. Surveyors shouldn't be aiding multinational corporations in strong arming landowners. 

I would bet good money, that I own more land then you, although I just sold the only small urban lot I have ever owned if that's what you are talking about. 

This post was modified 2 months ago by aliquot
 
Posted : November 26, 2022 11:50 am

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 JPH
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I've worked on many-mile long easements.  It would be almost impossible, and insanely expensive, to survey each and every boundary that it crosses. 

The plat shows the easement tied to monuments found and set, and approximate boundaries are shown.  The easement on each property is usually described as a distance each side of the centerline, with approximate length and area given.

As said above, the easements are usually staked, and/or the evidence of its location is obvious for a time, that the landowners should be able to see where it is.

 
Posted : November 28, 2022 5:08 am
Rover83
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@jph As said above, the easements are usually staked, and/or the evidence of its location is obvious for a time, that the landowners should be able to see where it is.

This has been my experience too. Well, maybe not so much with aerial or microwave easements, but by and large they don't affect the landowner trying to put a pond, pool, home addition or ADU on the ground.

Not to mention that if a landowner down the road really needs to know exactly where that easement is, they can...get a survey.

When I did oil & gas work on a large scale in Texas, in addition to the black & white easement exhibits that went along with the descriptions in the easement conveyances, I often worked up color-coded GIS maps with orthorectified aerials underlaid. I would send those over to the client land managers as a courtesy in addition to the recorded documents, so the landowners had a better idea of where things were. Yeah, we disclaimed the heck out of that document, but they helped the landowners get a good idea of where things lay. Better than that sketch in the recorded doc anyways.

 

Not to stir the pot even more, but this is another reason why, as new civil signals come online and autonomous GNSS improves, and as we move toward a 4D global reference frame, I foresee the coordinate controversy raising its head more and more often. If I can publish coordinates on an easement line that a landowner can use their cell phone to get within a foot of, requiring resurveys every time they want to stay ten feet away from that easement for a home project is going to start to look like protectionism on our part, and not protection of the public either. [putting my flame-retardant suit on]

 
Posted : November 28, 2022 6:26 am
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holy cow
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An easement takes away a certain fraction of the bundle of rights a landowner possesses and hands them over to whomever buys out the initial entity in need of the easement.  Most landowners do not realize what they have lost by signing the easement documents.

We have a quarter section full of high dollars houses in the largest city in the county and every one of them is burdened by a blanket easement for that entire quarter for the installation of a petroleum pipeline more than 115 years ago.  No one knows if a pipeline was ever installed and, if so, where the heck was it put.  Every title insurance policy specifically refuses to cover anything arising from this easement.  Someday, someone will be digging deep in their yard for some reason and think they are Jed Clampett.  Wrong!

 
Posted : November 28, 2022 6:54 am
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aliquot
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@rover83 "for a tine" is key. Before construction and often again years after construction the location becomes invisible. Even when "visible" it's only the assumed centerline that is visible. Your wlingness to trafer the cost of surveying to the landowners from the benifiting entity is telling. This amounts to a "tax" on the landowners. Yes they can get a survey, but the survey can be many times more expensive than if the boundary was properly surveyed to beig8n with.

Maybe I was lucky l, but when I demanded that the ROW for a powering across my property be fully surveyed the utility did it with little fuss. A neighbor is now faced with a $13,000 bill that I will never have to pay to locate the easement before building. It would have been even more expensive if they didn't have my monuments in one direction.  

 
Posted : November 30, 2022 6:40 am
aliquot
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@holy-cow thankfully blanket easements are usually frowned upon now, but this is the kind of transfer of financial responsibility to the landowners that we should not be a party to.

 
Posted : November 30, 2022 6:44 am
(@learner)
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Thanks again for the feedback.  I love hearing the different perspectives on the things that keep surveyors up at night.  (Or wake them up 😉

Continuing the discussion:  If you survey for a utility that, during construction, requires removal of a property corner (no other place to put the new utility except on the line, and through the corner) do you consider it your obligation to reset the corner if possible, once work is complete?

 
Posted : November 30, 2022 7:47 am

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Bill93
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If the destruction is foreseeable, it is a whole lot less work and a lot more accurate to get reference ties ahead of the construction and slam the monument back in afterward, than for someone to survey the whole property later and come up with a location that may differ from the original.

 
Posted : November 30, 2022 8:27 am
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Rover83
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Your wlingness to trafer the cost of surveying to the landowners from the benifiting entity is telling.

Yeah, I'm a corporate shill through and through...

I was under the impression that we were discussing the way it works rather than the way we would like it to work. I'm a proponent of monumenting these sorts of easement as @norman-oklahoma suggested upthread.

As I stated in my first post, I am in favor of making it possible for the landowners to locate their own easements within a foot or two when the technology becomes "reliable enough" (that metric is TBD of course), so that they can build improvements at a safe distance and not have to break the bank to do so. I for one don't think that landowners should have to constantly get resurveys.

When's the last time you saw a record of survey where the registrant monumented every single plottable easement on the ground? If we're going to shine a light on utility surveys, why not the surveys we do specifically for landowners?

Functionally the easements being discussed here are no different from a metes & bounds easement from a local water & sewer district. The scale is larger, but I see no compelling reason to treat them any differently. Can it be placed on the ground with the existing description (and exhibit)?

Yes, in a perfect world there would be full surveys of every tract, we would monument every single unmonumented corner, every single burdened property owner would get to walk their entire tract with the surveyor, etc. I'd like that too.

 

 
Posted : November 30, 2022 9:53 am
holy cow
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Getting to that perfect world will require professional land surveyors to "protect the public" by demanding that easement creation require true surveys for each property being crossed.  Our DOT has certainly moved in that direction and is now an excellent source of survey information that helps us do a better job of surveying for our clients.

Our County was needing additional land from numerous landowners for a road improvement project.  Every tract was surveyed and every tract required a full appraisal by a licensed appraiser.  The appraiser would perform a full appraisal of the property prior to the easement versus the appraisal following the easement.  The County could not simply offer a fixed price per square foot or acre being taken.  There is a distinct loss of appraised value based on easements that do not in some way service the property directly.

I own one tract that had a pre-existing lease for natural gas on it.  However, the well, the road to it and the piping to a main pipeline is entirely located on other properties.  That is the only tract that is burdened by more than the typical water line, electric line, telephone line type of easement which are all along the front so many feet of my properties and BENEFIT my property more than they hurt.  If you want to quickly learn how valuable those easements are, check into what it costs to run a service line from the existing main line to your preferred location.  An example from the past year for a rural water line service was in excess of $23,000.  That is nothing compared to the electrical service cost.

 
Posted : November 30, 2022 10:28 am

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MightyMoe
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Easement work for utilities or municipalities includes protecting your client. That means since the work is for the dominate estate care needs to be given to protecting the rights of that client. This doesn't mean the subservient estate isn't considered since both estates have a common interest.

However, when the two don't mesh then the client gets the main consideration, usually this means overwriting easements and paying the subservient estates a bit more for easements.

It's not the goal or even the right of the utility to solve any ambiguity or discrepancy encountered along the way. And you will encounter them, just look at "square 40" thread; what to do when that overlap is traversed by an easement? 

Not the job of the utility or municipality to solve it, but there are ways to cover the utility. 

It's state law here that the easement needs to be described in such a way that it's placeable on the ground, blanket easements are forbidden except as a time limited construction easement. Protecting the client means that the easement is easy to follow and retraceable. 

 
Posted : November 30, 2022 10:38 am
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aliquot
(@aliquot)
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@rover83 we don't generally monument all easements on a property we are surveying because our clients, the landowners, usually don't want to pay for it. It's entirely reasonable for them to decide that they will only survey them as needed. The considerations are entirely differnt when the survey is being done to create the easement. This is the time to get it done.

This post was modified 2 months ago 2 times by aliquot
 
Posted : November 30, 2022 1:55 pm
aliquot
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Posted by: @mightymoe

Easement work for utilities or municipalities includes protecting your client. That means since the work is for the dominate estate care needs to be given to protecting the rights of that client. This doesn't mean the subservient estate isn't considered since both estates have a common interest.

However, when the two don't mesh then the client gets the main consideration, usually this means overwriting easements and paying the subservient estates a bit more for easements.

It's not the goal or even the right of the utility to solve any ambiguity or discrepancy encountered along the way. And you will encounter them, just look at "square 40" thread; what to do when that overlap is traversed by an easement? 

Not the job of the utility or municipality to solve it, but there are ways to cover the utility. 

It's state law here that the easement needs to be described in such a way that it's placeable on the ground, blanket easements are forbidden except as a time limited construction easement. Protecting the client means that the easement is easy to follow and retraceable. 

Easement work for utilities also includes protecting the public. 

Easy to follow and retractable for who? The multinational gas company, or the land owner who's land is worth less than the cost to hire a surveyor to follow it for them?

This post was modified 2 months ago by aliquot
 
Posted : November 30, 2022 1:57 pm

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