Thoughts on subdivision design, "professional" definitions and geodetic surveying.

“A Better Arrangement”

December 2000 My surveying career began when computations were done with traverse tables, trig tables and logarithms, aided by rotary mechanical calculating machines. Curvilinear layouts were difficult and time consuming to compute. Field stakeout using transit and tape of non-grid designs was also tedious, and retracement of corners was difficult if there were no long straight lines to control the work.

Technology has overcome these problems; computers using appropriate software and electronic total stations can retrace/reset lost corners accurately. I believe these are some of the reasons for the grid layouts that have been standard for many years.

I find the coving concept very interesting. During my years of practice in upstate New York, our office attempted to minimize the use of straight subdivision roads, both for appearance and, more importantly, speed control. The coving principle is a further development of this concept.

However, I see one drawback to the coved layout: the loss of rear yards. In a subdivision targeted to young families with children, the rear yard is important. The uncluttered look from the street in the coved subdivision is most desirable, but in lots with a width-depth ratio of 1.5:1 or less, many of the rear yards are sacrificed. This is important space to a growing family; it contains play equipment, pet kennels, picnic tables and such, and provides private outdoor space for the family. Children should be playing in the relative security of the rear yard, not in the open spaces along the street. The rear yard is less important in subdivisions directed toward the retirement market.

As long as the subdivision plat incorporates sufficient permanent monuments in locations that will remain accessible to the surveyor, modern technology will permit the accurate replacement of lost property corners.

Neil Nucci, PLS (Ret)

via E-mail

“Contributing Editor’s Note”

January 2001 I find myself in agreement with much of what Robert Foster wrote in his response to Dennis Mouland’s editorial concerning who to include among us with the designation of “professional.” Unfortunately, he addresses only one aspect of our collective predicament.

While it is true that we should not exclude those who engage in GIS, construction staking or hydrography, etc., from the ranks of those who practice property line resolution, that can hardly be the salient problem facing us as we strive to be recognized up there with doctors, CPAs, attorneys or even second basemen.

Naturally every man and woman among us wants to be known as a “professional” something or other. That designation is the very affirmation of what our efforts have been directing us toward from the time we decided to go for it. To acquire that franchise tells the world we now have the minimum requirements to work among the other professionals in our field.

It’s not that easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is easy. The very title itself, “professional,” is a personal form of recognition by your peer group or by society in general.

The stress is on the word personal. A professional designation must be earned, as any asset worth having must also be earned on a person-by-person basis. I may not call myself a professional. Only you are allowed that high accolade concerning me. I may only earn that badge by living that life and achieving those objectives of integrity, which may then ripen into a recognition by society that I have indeed been graduated into the world of “professionals” within my peer group.

The wearing of a tie, a college degree, the designation PLS and all those other visible means of adorning ourselves do not make a professional. As long as we are required to pull on our boots and work out of doors, we will be perceived by the public as blue-collar workers. That is simply something that comes with the territory and is accepted by one at the outset of one’s career or else one pursues some other endeavor as a life work. We simply can’t have it both ways.

Do I know who I am, Mr. Foster? I think I do. I hope that I am living my discipline and my life in a way that will encourage you to refer to me as a professional land surveyor. I will not exclude those among us who also measure the earth’s configurations or other aspects of the earth that does not concern itself with property rights. But, I will not expect to be referred to as “professional” simply by right of association.

John LaTorre, LS

Sonora, Calif.

“Geodetic Surveying Made Plain”

January 2001 I really enjoyed the article, “Geodetic Surveying Made Plain.” My wife gave me that deadpan, “Oh, really” look when I tried to explain my interest in round Earth versus flat Earth when surveying.

We recently obtained our first $99 hand-held GPS receiver (accurate to about 10 m) in our office. It amazes us that we can generate coordinates anywhere on the Earth and determine our position with a small piece of equipment. Unfortunately, we cannot utilize this equipment for surveying. We are trying to convince our superiors that our office now needs the more sophisticated DGPS equipment.

Keep the articles coming. I actually sat down and calculated out the chord distance you mentioned in your article. I still haven’t convinced my wife that I am not losing it, but it sure is good to read articles put in terms that stick in your head and make you think about what you do on each job. Look forward to more of the same. c

Jeff Picklesimer, PE

via E-mail

The ideas and opinions expressed by our readers do not necessarily reflect those of POB.

Send your thoughts to the editor at or mail to Letter to the Editor, POB magazine, 755 W. Big Beaver Rd., Suite 1000, Troy, MI 48084.