I’ve recently bought a lot. The front of my lot is on a curve in the street, and it was created by replat. The original plat naturally had the right of way layed out parallel and tangent throughout. The surveyor who did the replat decided to connect my front lot corners and the adjacent lots’ front corners, which he found with a couple tenths or so of the record position, with a curve of radius different than the record radius from the original plat (in order to run the curve through all the corners). So this means that the tangents going in and out of this curve are… well not tangent. No big deal right? What about the other side of the street? (He didn’t show any corners over there so I can only assume that he’s not concerned with them) Shall we come up with another radius for that curve? If we do, then the rights of way are not parallel or the record dedicated width.
I’ve had the common law doctrine that public rights of way always get their exact platted width buried deep in my psyche since college. But I’ve had conversations with peers lately who believe that platted rights of way are strictly controlled by connecting found original monuments.
Do you, when establishing platted right of way, connect the dots or best fit. I’m a best fitter, I believe it’s the only way to protect the rights of the public. Let the monumentation control the side and rear lot lines.
Perhaps I’m alone in this attitude or straight up wrong, I would like to hear some other opinions.
J. Bennett 6.26.05
Backsight1: I’m a PLS who has been working directly with ROW issues for almost 20 years and I’m not sure that I have found any consistent answers to your scenario. The only thing I know for sure is that as each year passes, I realize how little I do know. I had an email exchange with another surveyor a while back that considered some of the same issues you are bringing up. I will post it below but will remove the other three surveyors names just in case they aren’t interested in having their names posted.
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I’m trying to mark ROW and adjacent easements for phone lines in a subdivision by [Unnamed PLS #1]. I’ve tied boundary monuments on one side and about 15 interior monuments on ROW lines. There is a rotation and perhaps translation from the interior row monuments and lot corners on the ROW lines compared to the record plat (which closes) and the exterior mons I’ve tied. Based on interior mons alone, you could best fit a 60′ wide corridor and most of the mons would fall within 2′ of that line, although some have much more error in other directions.
Many of the lots are REPORTED as sold by unrecorded contract for sale, only 4 have recorded deeds or deeds of trust. My current thinking is that the dedication was made by the plat and the original monuments define the ROW and easement. Roads are constructed, electric lines installed underground. Do you see any fault in this logic or think we would incur liability by marking the lines according to the original monuments?
All monument positions seem to be plus/minus a foot. The rotation shows five feet long in the few places where I have the monument at the other end of the lot line. I presume on the other end of the subdivision it would be short. Seems like to “fix” the plat would require a vacation and 100%
participation in replat. Owner of record for most parcels is [Unnamed PLS #1]. I understand that the exterior boundary which is an aliquot part description would be subject to change if improperly done but I see no basis to change the interior monuments.
Signed, [Unnamed PLS #2]
Unnamed PLS #2,
I tend to agree with your conclusion. I have had this discussion with other surveyors and not all of us agree. I hang my hat on the principles noted in Brown/Robillard/Wilson’s Third Ed. of Boundary Control and Legal Principles. Section 6.21 says “artificial monuments that represent the actual lines run by the original surveyor at the time of making the plat are presumed to control street lines irrespective of whether the courses, distances, and street improvement agree with the plat or not.” So if you think you have recovered original interior monuments, they would govern even if they do not reflect the platted street width. Once exception is when you cannot recover all of the original monuments along the street ROW. In these situations the platted street widths are held and any excess or deficiency proration is limited to the lots. Now I have to say that one surveyor that I consider to be really smart didn’t completely agree with this. [Unnamed PLS #3] argued that were more like witness corners or closing corners upon the platted ROW and would withhold the platted street width and show the relationship between the recovered monument and the calculated ROW line. But I still think that for the same reason that the other interior lot corners are held as sacred, the original corners defining the interior streets should also. The owner puts great reliance on the accuracy of the monuments set by the surveyor and depends on the fact that they won’t be changing position with each new survey. In some cases there are good reasons for that to happen, but I don’t think so in this case. So, if I understand your question correctly, I believe I agree with you.
Thanks to [Unnamed PLS #4] and John Bennett for taking time and giving me some feedback on this issue.
In discussing [Unnamed PLS#1]’s plat at our Jan 30 ASPLS chapter meeting, the issue being whether the ROW is jagged as defined by his monuments or is a full 60′ width, I find myself holding a minority opinion in holding the jagged line with a varying width ROW. I admit to not re-reading my legal books, but rather base my opinion on my readings nearly 20 years ago. Last night I did browse my books, and offer the following observations and cites to support my opinion, and invite you all to rebut them if you wish:
When a field survey is actually made, as a part of a plat, that the lines run on the ground hold over the numbers given on the plat. When retracing such a survey, that the original monuments called for on the plat, set by the original surveyor, undisturbed, control over those plat dimensions, that the monuments have no error in position. Exceptions to this are where exterior boundaries are controlled by aliquot part descriptions. Monuments set inside such a boundary leave a hiatus of land, those outside overlap property owned by the neighbor.
I think most of your arguments citing giving the ROW full width arise out of theory based on proportional measurement, where original monuments are missing, and overlook the more basic precept that proportional measurement is lowest on the priorities of establishing positions in the field. Exceptions to this concept are ROWs established without a survey made at the same time such as a PLO establishing a 100 ROW along a road or dedications based on a strip conveyance where centerline monuments are set.
Citing Brown et. al, “Boundary Control and Legal Principles”, 3rd edition, page 132, section 6.19, “establishment of streets”: Streets are established by the following methods listed in their usual order of importance: (a) by natural monuments; (b) by artificial monuments and lines actually run at the time of making the plat; (c) by improvements; (d) by the line of nearby streets where called for: (e) by the data given on the plat; and (f) as a last resort, by proportional measure. ”
Same cite, section 6.21: “Principle. After natural monuments, artificial monuments that represent the actual lines run by the original surveyor at the time of making the plat are presumed to control street lines irrespective of whether the courses, distances, and street improvement agree with the plat or not. Identified original monuments set by the original surveyor and found undisturbed will control the street line as shown in Fig. 6.4. Street A was found to measure 50 feet between monuments instead of 40 feet as indicated on the original map. The adjoining lots cannot each receive 5 dextra by narrowing the street; the rtificial monuments found definitely establish the street line. Similarly, if the record measurement is greater than the actual width indicated by monuments, the streets cannot be widened at the expense of the adjoining lots. In this case the subdivider’s intentions are clearly shown by the markers set at the time of the subdivision. The fact that the mapmaker erroneously noted 40 feet instead of 50 feet does not alter the facts on the ground.”
Same cite, section 6.24 “establishment of streets by plat. Principle. In the absence of evidence covered by the foregoing principles, the exact width of the street as given on the plat and the distances and angles are presumed to govern street location. . . . In absence of monuments streets are given the width called for on the plat, regardless of excess or deficiency that may exist within a subdivision. . .The rights of the public to a street are this protected by the courts so that deficiency or excess cannot exist within a street except where the original monuments set by the original surveyor indicate otherwise. . . Not all surveyors are in agreement with the theory that excess or deficiency is not to be prorated in the width of the street.”
In Clark on Surveying and Boundaries, 6th edition, section 21.10, page 680 , “where a plat delineates an actual survey, the survey, rather than the plat, fixes the location of the boundaries of the parcel. The survey is substance, the pat is a picture. . .Where there is a dispute as to the boundary line between a street and the abutting lots, the original survey will control the recorded plat.”
Same cite, section 29.11, page 1000, “Like any survey that was conducted for the preparation of a conveyance description, the land taken for a highway is that on which it is actually built and not that identified on the plat. This is in keeping with the legal concept that the lines actually run on the ground identify the original survey.”
[Unnamed PLS #2]
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So you can see that there are a wide variety of opinions as to how you should deal with these situations. In the absence of black and white scenarios, I tend to reflect upon the following two quotes regarding evaluation of evidence.:
Mitchell Williams and Harlan Onsrud from an American Bar Association book entitled Land Surveys, a Guide for Lawyers.
“If the surveyor’s evaluation of the evidence in the example is eventually upheld in a court of law, it is because the surveyor has arrived at a comprehensive and well-reasoned answer rather than because he has arrived at the theoretically correct answer. Again, there are no ‘true’ answers waiting to be discovered;only well-reasoned ones.”
In the 1974, 10th Edition of Land Survey Descriptions by Willam C. Wattles and revised by Gurdon H. Wattles, the interpretation of deeds was discussed:
“You sometimes have multiple possible combinations of physical and record solutions to the determination of a line or point to be shown on a map and used in a subsequent revision of a description. The decision as to which one or combination to use is not based on one rule only; the decision should be the result of careful analysis of both the singular facts and the different combinations of them together. When one grouping of a set of facts conforms more closely that any other combination to the conditions set forth by the description on record and the original survey, you then have the most reasonable solution that is probably available. This is known as the theory of majority probability, and would likely carry the most weight in court.”
Also, in case you have a real difficult time falling to sleep at night, I have attached a link to a paper I presented at the 1996 Alaska Surveying & Mapping Conference regarding the surveys of highway ROW. It doesn’t dwell so much on subdivision dedicated ROW and pretty much just reflects some of my experiences, but here it is: http://alaskapls.org/temp/row_surveys.pdf
And that’s my two cents ……..