Postcard From The Rockies 3
In the 90's, we saw GPS becoming more common among smaller surveying/engineering companies with RTK, which if set up correctly could be used in an efficient manner. some companies caught on better to the pitfalls of RTK than others. What I saw, as a county surveyor reviewing subdivision plats, that some surveyors got really cocky with their new and powerful GPS tools - and began setting pincushions all over the place. (some of you have seen my presentations with photos, when I started documenting this disturbing practice with photos in 1994).
Surveyor A - a little behind the curve on GPS, but still a guy who respects his own profession by doing actual retracements and accepts legal monuments, prepared a number of subdivisions (without pincushions), and Surveyor B, very good professional work with GPS, but sets those damn pincushions all over the place (because the measurements of GPS are of course, superior to those sloppy and careless transit people).
Surveyor A prepared a rather large subdivision of many large ( 5-10 acre) lots through three sections - mountainous and treed terrain, 8500 average elevation, all roads curvy. completed in late 90's. Several "lots" were designated open space. Every lot had a designated "Building Envelope".
A few years after the recording of the plat, Surveyor B submits an "amended building envelope of Lot x" a common practice that the county must regulate (and therefore I must review). Surveyor B, bless his heart, had exposed a problem with 3 of the original monuments, and by then it was well know that Surveyor A had really wrestled with his RTK and some of his original monuments "floated". at this time, all the original monuments were still in place.
Surveyor B - who can't stand to accept monuments that are not in the position that his touchscreen tells him - had drafted a red line on his plat that he labeled "true lot line" approximately 3 feet away than 3 original monuments, but luckily he "accepted" 3 other found monuments. The process of amending a building envelope means vacating the old, defining the new, and recording the new amended plat signed by the landowner, the surveyor and the county commissioners. The "red line" intruded into an Open Space lot by 3 feet, for 150 feet.
The county planning director, also a P.E., was fully disturbed by the revelation that the original surveyor had mis-positioned three monuments by 3 feet! Her circuits were overloading, smoking, ready to blow.
She consulted me, and my written advise is paraphrased as follows:
There is no alarm. In the event of conflicting positions between protracted lines and monumented corners, case law has established that the monuments rule - and there is no conflict. In fact, in the State of Colorado, it is technically illegal to show a drafted, calculated red line saying "true Lot line" that is not monumented. The error falls inside an Open Space tract, so luckily, no one has built improvements that are in conflict, and there is no valid dispute between two neighbors. the question in this subdivision to be asked is: Do all the houses built so far lie within the building envelopes? "moving" any boundary around by a few feet is not going to affect the BUILDING ENVELOPES. Tell the surveyor to remove his "red line" and we are good to go.
this explanation simply did not "compute" with the planner - P.E. She was arguing with me in the hall when the county attorney walked by. She complained about my explanation to the county attorney. the county attorney looked at the red line and said "we can't allow a 3 foot bust that means that someone overpaid by 1/2 acre for the next lot over. You can't just move each lot over 3 feet all the way through the subdivision!!"
I explained that the only actual error occurs in an open space tract - no one bought it, plus there is no such thing as moving all the lot lines over three feet".
eventually, the county ordered Surveyor A to fix his plat - because the county suspected that he would have to move each lot over three feet. The developer was contacted. He was infuriated. Both the developer, the planner and the attorney agreed that you can't move lot lines over three feet. that would be catastrophic. we demand better work than this from surveyors. surveyor A needs to get this right.
Surveyor A sent a crew out and offered to prove to the developer that the vast majority of his subdivision was precisely surveyed - he could not explain the three blown pins, but he would do his best as a professional to make it right (his ethical policy at the time). The developer hired lawyers, and notified all the landowners (about 30 at the time) that he had to do a quality control check and make sure no one over paid for their lots. The lawyers hired Surveyor B to do that quality control check. Surveyor A, after a few days of his own time with a crew, was able to prove that aside from reasonable tolerances, there only real error occurred at the same three pins (its a long story, but the option of putting the pins in the correct place would not work). This did not convince planner P.E. or county attorney. they both believed that all the lots in the subdivision had "moved" by 3 feet which is unacceptable.
The developer filed a lawsuit against surveyor A. In Colorado, lawsuits against licensed professionals must be accompanied with an opinion from another licensed professional that the respondents work is illegal and substandard. Surveyor B prepared this letter.
About a year later, Surveyor B submitted a "replat". he had found and measured in all the original pins, and had prepared a plat showing the precise measurements between each monument.
As county surveyor, I also reviewed this plat. I wrote a memo saying that our regulations require all improvements to be shown on subdivision plats. the purpose of showing the improvements would prove that there are no conflicts with any BUILDING ENVELOPES on the lot.
Surveyor B wrote a letter stating that he did not survey or show the 20 or so houses and their building envelopes, because his client had not requested this, and that this information is irrelevant to the scope of the project. Planner PE, attorney and developer all agreed with Surveyor B.
that plat is recorded today. if you compare the plats, there is no material difference in measurements with the exception of the 3 pins that were out of whack due to floating RTK.
Planner PE wrote a report to the commissioners that included the phrase " for some reason that I don't understand, the county surveyor advised us to accept the original monuments and remove the red line. We disagree with that theory".
the developer sued Surveyor A. eventually, they settled out of court. Surveyor A agreed to pay the developer's cost for the re-survey. thus surveyor B was paid $100,000.
GNSS is a powerful tool, but you have to pay careful attention and follow recommended protocols to get accurate and repeatable results.
I make the argument that if surveyor A had a Javad, he’d not have 3 mons with 3 ft float/bust. And, it’d have saved him a lot of money.
On the other hand.....
if B had it, He’d be finding more “busts”.
so, if common sense were applied, everything would be ok.
That is a terrible story. I am sorry that few (if any) of the relevant players did/could/would not understand your well stated position on the matter.
The complete failure to understand that original monuments control is pathetic.