Friday, December 20, 2013

Lesson Learned

Being Chairman of APLS has taught me something.  Even the best of intentions can be resisted if the other side feels shut out.  I have come to realize that APLS is NOT structured for all of its members to agree on everything.  No matter how bad I want us to.  So from this point forward I am not going to hammer my opinion.  I will offer my point of view and if you agree so be it if you disagree so be it.  If you want to talk about it we can.  However I won't be arguing to change any point of view.  I will simply offer mine and listen you to yours.

Surveying Stuff......

I have been spending the last 2 months marking and posting national forest boundary.  I love this work.  Being out in the woods; the physical exertion; and the recovery of 100 year old HES corners.  On one particular job the Boundary was a considerable distance inside a landowners fence.  So we made contact and myself and the landowner looked for the HES corner.  She kept looking around the fence and I crawled into a manzanita and there it was.  I cleared the brush and showed her the chiseled "WC 8 HES ...." on the face of the sandstone.  She became very angry.  After several minutes of discourse she ask me to vacate the property.  So we did. As we were leaving she said and I quote "F#$%ing rocks; I thought surveyors used satellites";  I am still laughing about that.

Merry Christmas ALL. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

When to ignore a monument accessory

I have been working on several posting jobs for the forest service.  I have been noticing something in the Payson area that I did not expect.  The bearing trees when measured from side center or face (more on that later) do fit the record call.  The BT is there the stone is there; the bearing and distance is questionable. 

So when I move to another HES corner; the stone is missing.  There is a fence corner an one of the BT's of record.  Also the HES was subdivided.  First I checked the BT to the fence corner and it was close.  Within a trash can lid.  The lot corners I recovered all pointed to the fence post with a probable area of about a quarter.  Well the answer was obvious;..........................

I used to be of the frame of mind that the manual was gospel and there was no deviation.  Here lately I have discovered that subsequent lot corner may be a better accessory than a bearing tree.

 More about the side center vs. face of blaze.  In some circles this oddity is well known. Most surveyors under 50 don't know that in many parts of Arizona; mineral surveyors were also contracting with the forest service and GLO.  In so doing it is not uncommon to find bearing trees on HES corners that are measured to the face of the blaze.  This is the rule for mineral surveys; however for PLSS work; the side center is the rule.

In my case neither worked so I noted it and moved on... 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Arizona Professional Land Surveyors and You

For those that don't know I am the Chairman of APLS.  As the chairman I have assumed the role as the figure head of this organization.  I have been continuously involved with APLS for 28 years.  I am writing this as a means of getting the word out about APLS. 

APLS was chartered as an organization of surveying professionals who sought to make the profession of Land Surveying better.  Having said that I think we can all agree that some in the profession will not always agree with the direction has has been going.  First with CEUs and now the revisions to the minimum standards.

I believe it is important for everyone to remember that although we all may not agree on the particular route APLS may take in the betterment of the profession.  The end game is to make things better for the practicing surveyor in Arizona.  At the moment the surveying profession is beset with several challenges that lie ahead.  Recently the SBTR let us know that they intend to refine the definition of surveying in the state.  APLS and the SBTR may not agree on all positions; we as APLS has tried to act as a single sounding board for what surveyors would like to see.  Again some don't agree with the route APLS is taking but I think the majority agree that the current state of affairs is less than what is desired. 

What the practicing surveyor needs to know is that membership is strictly voluntary and as a member you can influence how APLS policy will answer these challenges.  It would be nice if all practicing land surveyors joined but that is not reality.  So many will strike out on their own and voice opinions to the SBTR.  To them I say good luck and God's speed.  However it would be nice if we all came together as one voice and spoke from a position of strength to the SBTR.  This is where I believe the chapters can make a real difference.  If the chapters were to open their meetings up to non-members then the non-member could see we do not act under the cover of darkness but out in the open.  Together we can accomplish the goals we all agree on.  On the issues we don't agree on we can at least have an educated debate and clarify what issues are important. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

What is considered good research?

I have been to countless seminars; classes, and lectures; that all said that the survey starts with research.  Going to the Recorders/Clerks office and pulling deeds and surveys.  With this in mind; how in the hell did the Assessor's Tax Parcel Identification Number become the replacement.  I will stipulate that the assessor's office can be a good place to start research.  HOWEVER, the assessor's office is not the only place to do the research.

I have been seeing a trend that where records of survey have been citing the assessors parcel number as the basis of their research.  Really?  What happens when the number changes?  There is no short cut to doing the research.  Do it write or don't do it at all.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

More than Measurers Part 2

Here lately I have had the opportunity to speak with colleagues around the state.  There seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding in what the land surveyor is trying to accomplish.  I have met people who can measure to the Nth degree of accuracy.  Yet, their boundary conclusion is EXACTLY wrong.

How can a profession concentrate so heavily on the science of measurement and neglect the art of understanding evidence.  How did arbitrary numbers become more important than evidence of occupation and use?   Why do we hide behind measurements and ignore the true facts laying there before us?

As a for instance:

SurvA gets a call to locate the corners of lot 9 Nonya Acres.  The subdivision is the SE1/4NW1/4 and the SW1/4NE1/4 and the NW1/4SE1/4 and the NE1/4SW1/4 of Section 10 T1NR1E Yomama PM.  The County of Utopia has created a Coordinate data base of all section and 1/4 section monuments (that existed at the time of the survey) for the entire county.  SurvA goes the the County's website pulls the subdivision plat and the Coordinates for the Section Corners.  Then proceeds calculate his way into lot 9.  Having created this mathematically superior sketch; uploads the data to the data collector and hands it off to his technician and says "go forth and do great things"...  The PC arrives at the address; turns on the GPS and stakes out the coordinates setting new pins because there wasn't any at the stakeout and drives to the local park to grab some shade and enjoy a cold drink because he doesn't want to get back to office to early.

Upon returning to the office the technician downloads his Data collector and give the CAD guy his data.  CAD guy takes a hour to create a Record of Survey; showing the section corner ties to the lot perimeter.  Plots it to mylar and lays it on the RLS's desk.  RLS signs it and gives it to the office clerk who takes it to the county for recordation.  AHHHH, the field to finish survey.  Bodda Bing, its done and billed.

Next morning the phone rings...... Its the client; seems the pins on the east are in his yard and the pins on the west are in his neighbors yard...neighbors are mad and fighting and your client wants an explanation.  So the RLS says:  "Well the location of the lot is where we staked it.  If that isn't where you are occupying contact you title company and have them help you fix it because everyone in that block has the same problem."  The client hangs up and is now being threatened with a lawsuit.

Questions to Ponder:
1.  Was there any direct supervision of anybody by the RLS?
2.  Did the RLS evaluate the evidence of the boundary?
3.  Where is Lot 9?
4.  Was life better as a party chief or an RLS?


Thursday, August 15, 2013

More than Just Measurers

Every once in a awhile I have a tendency to forget what it is I am supposed to be doing when I survey a piece of property.  I tend to fall back on the measurements.  Mainly because this is the easiest of the chores that make up this profession.  I focus hard on the math of the system and over look obvious signs that I am headed down the wrong road.  This became clear to me recently when I was approached by a colleague from the metro-phoenix area whom had taken on a survey in my neck of the woods.  Long story short; he found monuments that I had missed.  The monuments he found basically shifted the property I had surveyed about 10 feet; it was planar shift so no area was compromised.  After looking at the evidence he presented me; it was clear that I had to amend my survey and explain it to my client.  I guess at this point I need to explain that my client has been a family friend since I was a toddler.  My father had surveyed for them for decades and had passed the torch to me.  So my relationship with client wasn't exactly cut and dry.  So first I verified what the other surveyor found and corrected my survey.  then I took my client to the property and walked the boundary and explained where I had failed.  I showed my client where my monuments were and where they were supposed to be.  then as they watched I pulled the erroneous monument and placed the correct one.  Of course I have to pay for some fence to move (that I gladly offered to pay for) and at first the was shocked.  However when I explained that moving a fence was cheaper than a court battle that they would surely lose; they became appreciative of the fact that I had come forward instead of trying to hide it.  That struck me as odd.  Why would I hide such a thing?  I believe my integrity is more valuable than a fence and the although my pride took a well deserved hit.  I would rather be a "stand up" guy than a sneak.  In a small town like this you cannot gamble with your reputation.  Making things "right" is far more precious than the almighty dollar.

Having the respect of a community as local expert is priceless.  My father once told me that the goal of every surveyor should be to gain the respect of his family first, peers second, and the community third.  Although my pride took a hit;  I believe I took at least a step in that direction.  My client actually thinks better of the situation now than when they did before.  Sometimes you learn more from being wrong than being right and although the ego may get bruised in the process the lesson becomes solidified.  At this point, I would rather the people who live in my area; think highly of my work than be concerned about my fees.  I am starting to get there and it feels fine.  Having a honest reputation, a strong work ethic, a professional attitude, and recognition from the community is the true meaning of success in my book.  My mentor drilled that into my head and to some extent some of it took.  Or at least that is what i was told by my client.  Who gave me hug and bought me lunch.  That don't happen everyday; but when it does its nice.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Has this ever happened to you?

Last week I was working on a parcel in Pinetop.  The owner thought there might be a trespass issue and asked me to survey the property.  So when I get there I find some really juicy evidence.  1/2" pieces of sucker rod set by William Bartlett RLS #618.  The work was really tight so rebuilding the survey was not as difficult as anticipated.  I found a copy of Bartlett's plat and he showed a 0.07 acre strip between 2 lots.  this was the area of concern for my client.  They thought it was theirs.  The neighbor on the other side of the strip has a shed and concrete pad for a RV in the strip and they were clearly using it.

As it turns out; and after a lot of digging around we found Bartlett's monuments around the strip.  The strip existed and was surveyed in 1961.  So instead of my clients defending against adverse posession.  There was no issue at all.  The neighbor however asked if I could survey his place also and help him find an attorney.  He wants the strip he's been using.  So I gave him a few numbers and finished his parcel also.

On the way home I began to over think it.  Was I crossing an ethical boundary here?  As a land surveyor I cannot advocate of any party.  Yet when two neighbors are fighting over a strip of property and both of them  want you to survey it for them is there a breach of ethics?  I believe in full disclosure and let all involved know who had requested the initial survey.  I also let my first party client know that the neighbor wanted me to survey his also.  Noe seemed to have a problem.  But does that mean I don't have a problem?

Is this the perfect position or the worst one?  Maybe I am over thinking it again...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Catching up

May flew by.  I haven't been that busy in May since 5 years ago.  You might have noticed I haven't been posting anything.  When you work alone and spend long days all week; the weekend is all about my girls.  Enough said.

Yesterday I made the trip to Phoenix to attend a special meeting of the BTR.  The meeting only had 2 agenda items Saying good bye to Ronald Dalrymple and Continuing Education.  A BTR member revealed the results of the survey that the BTR had on line about CEU's.  Statistically is was dead even as far as surveyors were concerned.  Unitl you removed the dual registrant Engineers.  Then the true RLS's by majority were in favor of a CEU program.  After much (and the majority) of testimony was taken from the gallery, the BTR discussion commenced.  The BTR discussed the issue and the point was raised that the number of enforcement cases showed an issue; the profession was surveyed and supported CEU's; and APLS was requesting a CEU program.  During that discussion the Land Surveyor member of the BTR made the motion "for the board to take no action toward a CEU program".  With a quick second and a roll call vote the motion passed.  AT THIS TIME THERE WILL BE NO CEU PROGRAM.

Those on the BTR that supported APLS in this please continue to do so.  Those among us who quietly supported us please continue to do so.  This is by no means over.  I don't know what the politics are behind this vote and the way it happened.  It stinks of an inside job but I will never be able to prove it.  So in my humble opinion I will simply say this:  The surveying community in the state of Arizona has once again been shown that we are not allowed to take control of our own destiny.  Our fate, our regulations, our practice, is defined and administered by bureaucrats and other professionals who know nothing of what we do and its impact on the state.

I can only offer this hope for our future.  I will hope and pray that when and if one of these gentleman who participated in the "No" vote yesterday; someday in the future call on a surveyor to survey their house or property.  If that survey is to have any sort of problem that gets really ugly.  I hope they think back to the vote they cast and ask if a CEU program was worth it or not.  Because they have done that for every land owner in the state that has a baseless boundary issue because of a lack of education and no mandate to aquire it.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Minimum Control

I am seeing a disturbing trend in Arizona Boundary Surveying practice.  I see more and more on plats the tendency for the registrant to calculate and monument a boundary and only show tries to street center line monuments and/or section corners.  Whatever happened to the principal of "Minimum Control"?

 I brought up to believe that a boundary survey started on the subject property and worked its way out until  sufficient control was recovered to re-establish the subject boundary.  However, on plats I have seen recently, there is a trend that starts at the section and works its way in.  WHY?  unless you are the first to subdivide the section you don't need to do this (unless there is a very good reason).  By acting in this manner you are re-inventing the wheel.  It may satisfy the urge to play with the math but on the ground it doesn't prove anything.  I believe that a mathematical conclusion does not overturn a monument in the field that has been relied upon and is substantiated by proper pedigree.  Moreover, I am seeing plats that set all of the lot corners in a subdivision with no ties to the adjoining lots or block corners.  No ties to boundary evidence like fences or occupation.  just mathematical sketches that are baseless and cannot be defended or re-traced.  I understand the reluctance to use a fence line to reconstruct a boundary.  In the hinterlands fences can be scary.  However in a subdivision fences between neighbors should be a good indicator of where the lot is or at least where the owners thought it was.  Either way, the mathematical expertise of the surveyor is not the determining factor.  

Land Surveyors are to quick to rely on math and ignore the obvious.  We are supposed re-establish boundaries not prove our mathematical abilities.  My father once told me that COGO and AutoCad will destroy land surveying.  Well I don't think technological advances have killed it.  But they damn sure dumbed it down.  I have been a HUGE fan of recordation.  However it is days like today that make me think I may be wrong.  Some of the surveys I am seeing should have NEVER been recorded and the fact they exist in the record only clouds the record information for the adjoiners.

Getting a license to practice does not prove you are ready to practice.  The license only proves you scored better than 70% on a test.  I am leaving for the field to try to retrace one of these 1:100000000000000000 closure sketches that is now at home in the courthouse.  We shall see what transpires.  However I am predicting a bad day for surveying and an excellent day in the Hinterlands.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

It is almost Field Season

The days are getting longer and they are starting to get warmer.  It must be time for field season to start.  Personally I cannot wait.  The phone is starting to ring and the work list is starting to grow.  I hope this trend continues.  I promised myself that I would not get political and I won't.  However I will say this;  I am tired of the politicians using us small business people as cannon fodder.  Just let us alone and watch us make the economy work.

Anyway, It is looking like I am going to be on the road this year.  I find myself having to travel to the work.  I generally try not to do this because most the time the local surveyors can handle the work and would like the opportunity.  However I have a couple of clients that insist I travel for them.  Therefore they call, I hall.  In the interest of fairness; I have seen foreign surveyors in the metro Round Valley area so I guess I shouldn't worry to much.

When I do work in an area outside my normal coverage; I try to make contact with the local surveyor(s) in that area and get a feel for the neighborhood.  Sometimes they treat me poorly because they resent the fact that I am there.  Sometimes they open their files and welcome me in.  I understand the resentment.  Hell I don't like foreign surveyors working in my town.  But I get over it quickly.  I wish these guys would come by the office and say hi.  I would be more than happy to share whatever inside information I have about the Round Valley area.  However nobody ever does.

We as professionals have got to get past this attitude that any other surveyor is a threat.  We have got to start embracing each other as colleagues and cooperate in ways that benefit us all instead of cutting each others throats.  We as individual surveyors, must come to realize we are apart of a much greater profession than our own offices.  Once we resolve to treat each other with mutual respect; then the community will regard us with the respect we have been wanting; but needing to earn.

So anyway; as I start to gear up for a hectic summer; who knows I may be coming to a neighborhood near you.  If so, I look forward to talking to you....

Friday, February 15, 2013

When Should a Surveyor Record?

Been having an interesting conversation lately about when the 90-day clock according to ARS 33-105 should kick in.  Here is the statute:

33-105Recording of certain land surveys; contentsA. A land surveyor shall file a record of a land survey not later than ninety days after its completion with the county recorder of the county where the land is located if such survey establishes points or lines relating to land boundaries or property lines disclosing:
1. A material discrepancy based on the accuracy requirements of the current survey which, in whole or in part, does not appear on any map or record previously recorded or filed with the county recorder, county engineer, highway division of the department of transportation or the United States bureau of land management.
2. Evidence that, by reasonable analysis, might result in alternate positions of lines or points.
B. The record of survey shall be a reproducible map, legibly drawn, printed or reproduced by a process assuring a permanent record as required by section 11-481.
C. The record of survey map shall show:
1. All monuments found, set, removed, reset or replaced, the kind, size and location of such monuments and all other data relating to such monuments.
2. Bearing and basis of bearings and length of lines to the nearest one one-hundredth of a foot and ties to witness monuments. Other record data may be shown in chains, varas or other units of measurement as implemented by older surveys.
3. Dates of survey, scale of map and north arrow or other means of orientation.
4. Name or designation of tract or grant in which the survey is located, ties to adjoining tracts or grants and section or sections, township, range and political subdivision of this state.
5. Any other data necessary for the intelligent interpretation of the various items and locations of the points, lines and areas shown.
D. The record of survey shall be securely fastened by the county recorder into a separate book provided for that purpose. The county recorder shall keep proper indices of such record of survey by the name of grant, tract, subdivision or cadastral subdivisions by United States bureau of land management or general land office.

I believe the 90-day clock starts when either you set a monument or find a monument that is not of record.  So to expand that; here is my thought.  I believe that when a Land Surveyor sets monuments the final boundary determination is made.  Therefore the clock should start then.  What happens to projects for government agencies, subdivisions, and minor land splits; they should be subject to the 90-days because of the agency review they are subject to.

Why should clock start at monumentation?  Simple, that is when the notice is given to the adjoining property owners and the subject property. However there is some debate about when a project is considered complete.  When the plat is signed and sealed? When the final bill is paid?  When it is returned and approved  an agency? To these I say no.  The boundary survey is complete when the boundary determination is made and monumented.  The plat is only a representation of how we derived our conclusion.  The monuments are the conclusion; therefore they should rule the day.  Consider this; the landowners immediately impacted by the survey will rely on the physical monument either to live by or in some cases steal by.  It has been my experience that the only people who routinely place any value on a Record of Survey are Surveyors, Title Companies, and Lenders.  Nobody else really cares.  In fact if you (the practicing surveyor) were to call a client from a year ago and ask if they knew where a copy of their Record of Survey, you did for them was, they would tell probably say I don't know.  But if you drove up and said "show me the monument I set for you last year" they would probably walk you right over to it.  Now you could argue that same scenario as a reason to avoid recordation at all.  Yes but then you'd forget the reason for recordation in the first place.  It is so we can stop reinventing the wheel everytime someone needs a survey.  Recording surveys benefits title companies, other surveyors, lenders, and anyone else interested in spatial data.  Yet as far as the Record of Survey is concerned the person it benefits most, the land owner, is the one who cares least.

Today one of our own has been laid to rest.  Dave Preisch of Tucson.  Via Con Dios.  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Out with the Old in with the New

Over the years dad and I have accumulated quite a bit of equipment.  Most of it is from the era of traversing and we had to take stock in the situation.  We are hard pressed to throw any thing away simply because replacement parts are hard to come by.  Plus the nearset survey supply store is 200 plus miles away.  So we we were sitting in the office and decided to see what was useful and what wasn't.  We had on hand a set of Topcon Legacy RTK equipment, pre bluetooth that we don't use.  A set of Hyper plus RTK equipment that is gathering dust.  We have become a trimble shop so the Topcon stuff was laying around doing nothing but taking up space.

We concluded that we should make the Topcon equipment work for us so we traded it for a Robotic Total station.  I can not wait to get my hands on it.  I was a little disappointted that the Topcon gear didn't fetch a higher trade in but it is Pre L2C so it is only a matter of time before it is KAPUT.  Plus we found out the "local" Topcon dealer would no longer support the legacy or the hyper so the decision was easy.

I wish the equipment dealers were a little more understanding but they are in the business of making money selling thelatest and greatest gizmoes.  When the equipment relies on computer systems and such it is a little hard to keep up when they decide to no longer support the old technology and adopt new.  So here we are.  At least we can make the older gear work for us to aquire a robotic total station.  It seems that will be of some benefit rather than sitting in the office not being used at all.  So it will be somewhat of a win if at all.

I really hate trying to keep up with the technology race but some times you just have to.

Friday, January 4, 2013


Well by all appearances it is clear we survived the end of the world on 12-21-2012.  Or did we?  Maybe the Maya were referring to the surveying profession as we know it.  Anyone whom has survived this economy thus far is truly busting the hump getting the bills paid; or is a government employee. 

On another note... I received an email from the Arizona Board of Technical Registration.  It's purpose was to ask for my participation in a survey.  The survey was about Continuing Education.  This topic has been my drum beat for 3 going on 4 years now and I couldn't be more pleased.  I will hit this hard later.

I have been elected as Chairman of APLS and to my dismay I indirectly received an email from a RLS member who is not happy with where APLS is going and has chosen to not participate any longer.  This is truly a shame.  Not because we will mourn the loss of dues but because he gave up the only weapon he had; the privilege to participate. I am not sure I recognize the rational but none the less the choice is his.  Via con Dios.  APLS must start to take a stand on issues and become somewhat controversial.  I am sure we lose some in the end but I am optimistic that we will gain more as we go.  I have seen this before.

APLS is having a general membership meeting on the 19th of January.  The meeting info is on the APLS website on the calender.  If you don't have plans come by I'd like to see you. 

So typically the holiday day season causes our practice up here to grind to a slow crawl. To be honest I am not surprised nor disappointed.  To be honest; If I could fix it to where I work down south in the winter and up here in the summer that would be awesome.  However Murphy's Law dictates the inverse to be true. 

Therefore my focus now is the year end paper work and tax preparation.  I always enjoy this.  In fact while preparing the paperwork for my tax lady I have "Ode to Joy" playing in the office.  Nothing pleases me more than "rendering unto Caesar".

Sorry boys and girls I will have more next time.....

Viva La SALSA..