Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Autonomy of the Land Surveyor

I have seen and read a number of articles lately that suggest that Land Surveying is a dying profession.  I even read an article suggesting surveying is a trade and the education requirement is killing it.  Although I must say the articles written about how the education requirement is making surveyors experts at being EXACTLY wrong are particularly entertaining.  Therefore not wanting to miss the boat; I thought I would chime in.
     Let us define which parts of surveying are technical and which parts are professional.  Curtis Brown wrote that (I am paraphrasing) mapping and construction layout are functions of Civil Engineering because they are used primarily in the design/build process; therefore these are of a technical/trades nature.  Mr. Brown went on to say that Boundary Surveying requires data gathering, data analysis, and a determination; therefore this is a professional activity.  Backing up this conclusion is the fact that many States license or register Surveyors primarily for boundary surveying activity.
     Now let's discuss the training of surveyor; education versus apprenticeship.  I do not plan to waste a lot of time here but we can all agree education is a good thing.  Education without application is meaningless.  What is the benefit of a wealth of knowledge if there is beneficial application or practical use.  Conversely with apprenticeship; what is the benefit of training if a situation develops that requires out of the box thinking that the training is ill prepared for?  Many State jurisdictions that license surveyors have adopted an education requirement; I believe it is now around 45 of the 50 states or there about.  Most substitute education for experience concerning the licensing requirement.  I believe this is a mistake.  I argue the education requirement should be on top of the experience requirement.  Not a substitute for it.  Education cannot replace experience and vice versa.  We must have both.
     After the "In-Training" status is achieved through testing I believe the LSIT should have his work reviewed by all of the PLS's that recommended them for licensure.  Not just the employer.  I would not allow experience beyond boundary experience.   This will bother some; but it is boundary that the states license for.  Finally I believe the professional examination should be a comprehensive review of the candidate(s) individually by a committee of professionals duly licensed, with unblemished records, and considerable experience.  This examination should be an oral interview after a written examination is successfully completed.  I once had a mentor in Colorado tell me "congratulations on passing the the PLS exam; all it means is you scored better than 70% on a test."  It took me a while to figure out what he meant.
     Our profession is not dying.  We are a profession in transition.  As our younger candidates become better educated and the technology available them becomes more highly evolved; we will continue to see less human interaction on the trade side of surveying (mapping and construction layout) through drones and machine controls.  However we shall see an increase in the professional side of surveying as the land surveyors take their rightful position as caretakers of the cadastre.  Our profession is evolving and as it does there will be some discomfort.  However the sky is not falling.  As far as the argument concerning the declining number of surveyors; well I see that as a free market issue.  Fewer surveyors; higher demand; higher fees; more surveyors.  There is and will always be equilibrium.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Open the Arizona State Board of Technical Registration

To THOSE Whom Wish to Deregulate the Surveying Profession;

The reasoning behind why we need to regulate the profession is clear to the professional.  However I will attempt to make the reasoning clear:
     1.  Regulation provides a standard of minimum competency to be recognized as ready to practice.
     2.  Regulation enforces a standard of practice set forth by the profession.
     3.  SHOULD provide a standard of continued competency of the profession.  Arizona is now embracing a model of making continuing education a part of the discipline process.  Therefore we are almost there.

What is the impact of the Land Surveyor on Society?  Well our profession does not have the bravado of the public safety professions.  Nor does it have the notoriety of the medical profession.  Or the stature of the sanctimonious design professionals.  The land Surveying profession is a vanguard profession.  The professional surveyor takes the one of largest expenditures in a person's life and shows them where it is; shows them the status of boundary; lets you where the land is; and how much of it there is.  Not very sexy at all.  However most of any individual's personal wealth depends on it.

Nothing is built unless the land it is built on is guaranteed and secured.  Nothing is financed by banks or other lenders unless the land guaranteeing the loan is secured.  Land ownership and land tenure is the basic principle that sets the United States of America apart from most other nations.  Yet it is the Land Surveyor who makes up the thread of the fabric of our land tenure system.  Without the land surveyor to definitively provided the who, what, where, why, when, and how, of a real estate transaction how does the average land owner discern for themselves the intricacies of land ownership.  Land stewardship is more complex than "caveat em tor".  When it comes to land transactions we make the cloudy, clear.  We bring light to dark spaces.  We answer questions that people didnt even know they had.

Therefore the next time you want ask why should Land Surveyors be regulated? Think about what I have said and how it applies before you refinance your house or you buy you next investment property.    

Friday, February 5, 2016

Looking Forward to Spring

OK IT IS OFFICIAL.  I am tired of being cold.  I imagine the guys in the desert feel the same way in September before it cools off in the fall.  just an observation.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The importance of the Land Surveyor to get involved in the Community

The role of the Land Surveyor in our communities is a key and vital role.  I have learned over the years that the role of a land surveyor in a community can be a key component for advising local officials in making key planning and regulation decisions.  Often times we as surveyors tend to focus on our own niches and not look to our overall impact.  Our community leadership often times make decisions based on information but not the whole picture.  The Land Surveyor can shed light on these impacts and decision processes.  We deal in a realm of bridging the gap between land tenure and land regulations.  Yet we may be good at satisfying the needs of our clients we also tend to drop the ball in getting involved in the regulation process.  Often towns and counties enact policies that on their face seem to answer an immediate need to regulate but they do little in the way of looking at the big picture consequences.  This is where the land surveyor can bring information to the table and influence these processes.  However as a profession we fail to get involved and find ourselves reacting to new rules and ordinances that only serve to make our client’s land tenure more difficult.  Personally I serve and have served on planning and zoning commissions and city governance.  In these positions I have had the opportunity to advise these governing bodies with advice and information that was beneficial to the average land owner.  Also it is a great way to become familiar with the process and how to best work within it.  If our profession would focus more on advising our clients on how to best utilize their land to their benefit and not just measure what we are told to we would all be better off.

Surveying is Local

The practice of surveying is a local practice.  It takes years of working in a particular area to become familiar with the local nuance of working there.  This is easy in a small local environment and can become difficult in the broader sense.  I have long held the belief that those who practice everywhere learn little or nothing about this principal.  These firms often times do not know the local pitfalls and ultimately enter into surveying contracts blind.  Sometimes there is a payoff and most times there is not.  A local land surveyor intimate with an area is more valuable to those whom live in that area than those whom aren’t.  Especially when it comes to dealing with local officials.  Regional issues and concerns play a large part in understanding local rules and regulations.

The Good of the Profession

I have been reading up on some of the writings of Curt Brown.  It is not hard to notice that this man was ahead of his time.  Many of the issues he wrote about in the 60’s are the same issues we face today.  The future of the profession.  Education of the profession.  Promoting the profession.  Yet our profession whose practice is steeped in tradition is slow to embrace some of these principals.  As the technology of measurement is advancing our view of our profession moves at a much slower pace.  I attribute this as an attitude of hanging on to historical practices and habits.  However the professionals whom grasp technology and apply these habits tend to be more successful.  However old traditions die hard.  As we are seeing today the paradigm of the survey crew and para-professional technicians is also changing.  Technology has destroyed the hierarchy of the survey crew and apprenticeship.  Where in the past a technician would learn and work their way up the structure to become a party chief and possible a registrant.  Now we have one-man GPS crews whose support and training come from instructions in the office.  In today’s environment the apprenticeship doctrine that many of us learned under is now failing.  Many of these technicians are not being properly trained to evaluate evidence or what and how to measure.  They collect data and turn in a coordinate file.  This is not apprenticeship.  This is not training.  This is technical training that serves an immediate need but does little to instill meaning full education.  The idea of allowing education in boundary surveying to start after the license is issued is a serious misstep and is currently hurting our profession.  What every surveyor needs to understand is that not all surveying is a professional practice.  Most aspects of surveying are merely technical practices of engineering.  Boundary surveying is the only true professional practice because it is the only practice where the science of measurement may be in direct conflict with the principals and doctrines of possessory rights and interests.  This is where the professional decision is made.  We as a profession must embrace the idea that not all surveying is professional.  Therefore not all aspects of surveying can be regulated by the State in a broad brush set of rules and regulations.  In fact I would argue that regional bias also makes boundary surveying hard to regulate in a broad brush approach also.

Technical Standards versus Standard of Care

Arizona is indicative of many states that pursue the regulation of surveying through technical standards.  Technical standards serve a purpose but they do not answer the hard questions faced by those who make boundary determinations.  Those who believe the contrary are more focused on the technical aspects while deficient in the professional aspect of the decision making process based on evidence evaluation.  The principal of Standard of Care addresses the regional bias and influences the decision making process by comparing what the professional decision making process of those practicing in a given area would do.  Again surveying is local; and the standard of care principal is why.  The playing field cannot be leveled by an encompassing technical standard because local or regional bias maybe in direct conflict with these.  The professional should and must have the latitude to make decisions without being hamstrung by a conflicting technical standard.  Where the technical standard must be deviated from; the professional surveyor must be able to offer an intelligent and fact based reasoning for this deviation.  Violating possessory rights or interests for the sake of following a technical standard cannot be tolerated.

APLS should set the Standard of Care

If APLS would assume the role of defining the standard of care then the state would not need technical standards.  However we tend to want to hide from each other instead of talking to each other.  We as an association and a profession must embrace the idea we are colleagues and not competitors.  Colleagues can compete for contracts and engagements without creating an adversarial posture.  Surveyor on surveyor crime is a shameful practice.  We should educate each other through communication not use the BTR to rid ourselves of competition.  The competition will always be there.  We must embrace the idea of open and honest collaboration and not set traps for those whom try to follow in our footsteps.  Nothing we do is a trade secret nor is it proprietary.  We deal in realm of trying to serve the public’s interests not our own.  This is where APLS needs to reach out to nonmembers and nonparticipating members.  We can become better by learning from each other.  We can succeed together or wither and die individually.  I choose unity.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Did that Just Happen....

The Story....

Back in 2012 a surveyor was approached by a land owner whom possessed 8 lots (4 on each side of a street) in an undeveloped subdivision that had been approved and adopted by a local municipality.  The streets were dedicated to the town but not built.  The land owner had the idea of asking the town to revert the lots to acreage and abandon that portion of roadway that separated his lots.

The subdivision was monumented and platted in 1987, and amended in 1989.  Non of the infrastructure was built or placed.  the ADRE stepped in and halted the marketing/selling of lots for multiple reasons.  Therefore by the time 2012 cam around the subdivision existed in fact but was no longer feasible.

In 2007 a group of investors bought the subdivision and in that sale non of the previous conveyances were excepted or recognized.  A lawsuit ensued.  The land owner asking for the reversion had his claim of title supported and proved up by the County Superior Court.  So his ownership was not in question.  However the investors are currently in court trying to get their possessory rights proved up.

In 2012 the landowner petitioned the town and had a plat prepared reverting the lots to acreage and vacating/abandoning the street adjacent to his lots.  By resolution the town agreed and signed the plat and it was good.  That portion of the subdivision was reverted and the street dedication was recended.

In 2015 the investors decided that the town had violated its subdivision rules and filed a lawsuit against the town because of the reversion claiming to be damaged because the subdivision plat had been changed.  After consulting with attorneys the town made the decision to recend its resolution and undo the street abandonment and lot reversion; without the consent of landowner.  So by resolution they did.  So the town thinks that it will go through the process of posting the property and follow their rules and in 30 days redo what they have undone.

The Questions...

1.  Does the resolution undoing the street abandonment constitute an unauthorized "taking" by the Town?

2.  Does a violation of town code justify the violation of a citizens constitutional protection from illegal search and seizure?

3.  Does this action by the city council put them in violation of their oath of office for not defending the Constitution of the United States?


Monday, November 16, 2015

The Changing Face of Land Surveying

Has anyone else noticed that the dynamic of the typical survey operation has changed?  I have operated as a one-man shop for the last 10 years and have found the hard work liberating.  Primarily because it has given me the latitude to stay flexible in a hostile economy.  The other reason is I do not have to rely on a technician to collect data for me.  Don't get me wrong; I working in an engineering firm with lots of crews and I was their manager.  However to be honest I really had no idea what they were doing or how well they weren't doing it.  I did catch one party chief: while working in Kansas; sitting in the truck playing on his playstation and small TV while his crew was in the snow staking power poles.  On another occasion I was asked to fire a young man who apparently could not keep his urine clean.  My point is this type of stuff was daily.  I was spending hours managing people and clients and very little time supervising the data.  It was impossible.

What I see now is more RLS partychiefs and one-man crews.  Plus more and more one-man operations.  Even the engineering firms have realized that it is more cost effective to sub-contract their surveying tasks rather than maintain survey operations in house.  I think this is a positive move.  It will be uncomfortable but it is in the right direction.  With the RLS being more hands on; there is better decision making in the field.  An added bonus of course is the experience.

I am hoping this progression will calm the competitive nature and begin to embrace a cooperative nature.  We should act as colleagues not enemies.  Its hard but it is possible.