“Letter to the Editor” November 2000

This letter is in response to Richard Cryer’s letter “The Soap Box: Do-it-Yourself Surveyors.” I sympathize with Mr. Cryer’s plight of not being allowed to sit for a PLS or SIT exam. He hits the nail on the head when he refers to the fact that the state Board of Examiners lock people out of the profession in order to maintain a demand for their services.

You really have to take a look at the root of the problem to understand why you’re being discriminated against. In Rhode Island, members of the Board of Registration for Land Surveyors are appointed by a governor who does not know the difference between a transit and a plumb bob. Most of them do not hold a degree in land surveying.

My advice to you is to obtain enough field experience so you are able to gather and recover enough evidence to determine property lines by mathematical and legal reasoning. Study some of the fine texts that deal with our profession. Let surveying be your passion and your life. When you think you are ready, then just do it; start practicing. The only recourse a state licensing board has is to refer you to the attorney general for practicing without a license.

Our profession seems to be dying because we are shutting out people like you. As licensed professionals, we should force our state boards to drop the degree requirement and lower the number of years of experience required to apply for the exams. In the meantime, the landscape architects and engineers are taking over our role because we are divided and do not have enough numbers to stand up to these other professions. We, in our state of complacency, and the state Board of Examiners for Land Surveyors, have allowed our own profession to fall.

David Hilbern, PLS

“A Better Arrangement” December 2000

After reading the December issue I was compelled to submit the following comments. The picture on the cover did not lead me to think this could be a better arrangement. The public walk is meandering in and out of the right of way. I read the article and do think it is a great idea to try to create a design that is pleasing to the eye and comfortable to reside within. What concerns me is putting aesthetics and economic gains in front of common sense.

The grid and conventional subdivisions described may be dated, but the concepts were not without thought. Linear and circular geometry arrangements provided order and attempted to make a distinction (not in all cases) between public and private boundaries. The real integrity and benefit of these designs is the ability to make an accurate resurvey. Boundary lines can be re-established by retracement and the application of proportionate measurements. No real question about the location of the right of way and alley with the grid system. Even the radial cul-de-sac lends itself to retracement.

Now, the argument could be made that the meandering sidewalk on private property will be handled by easement or subdivision declaration. If that is the case, why not have a more varying right of way to accommodate the design, or give up the dedicated right of way altogether? Do the roadway, sidewalk and utilities by easement and extend the boundary lines through that space along retraceable lines. Who knows? You may be able to convince the municipality that there is tax incentive, use sound geometry and turn a profit. That may be a better arrangement.

Eric J. Sladek, PLS Chicago, Ill.

The author responds:

Thank you for commenting on the article, “A Better Arrangement.” In response to your comments, I offer the following thoughts:

On coved developments, it is recommended that the setback line, which aligns the face of the homes to create the coved effect, also be a blanket easement to wind city-owned walkways to and from the curb. This can also be used for straight-line utilities, which can reduce manholes and number of bends about curves.

One aspect of a coved neighborhood is that technology-based advances in hardware and software facilitate ease in reconstructing property corners, including the design, compute, stakeout and reset of corners. A suggestion was to free-form the rights of way. However, that in itself would make it difficult to determine front lot location and shape (the front boundary of the lot would follow the curve of the curb), and rear lot placement follows standard platting rules. In areas such as Phoenix and many Texas neighborhoods where rear yards are fenced or walled, the property line location would be very easy. In open yard areas such as is often the case in the midwest where there may be restrictions regarding fencing, property line location would be simplified by technology.

In response to the coving concept being compared to the grid-based Traditional Neighborhood Design or TND as they are called, there will always be differences in planning opinion, but that is true with all community plans of which homes and neighborhoods are a part. Those who desire coved communities will be different homebuyers than those of TND neighborhoods. However, it is worth considering that the vast majority of homebuyers desire a quality of life that includes space and views of nature, which is proven by the success of coving.

On other matters, coving provides a much better solution than any other method when boundary is non-rectangular and/or when topography is limiting. As far as developing cities based upon “orderly” straight-line boundaries, this separates uses with finite relationships between multi-family, single-family and non-residential uses. Breaking that linear nature helps blend a community.

In fact, much of our cities were formed around private ownership configurations of land. An original 160-acre rectangular farm becomes a subdivision. A split happens with inherited land, where the nephew has the south 1/2 of a 40-acre site and builds a commercial tract. The son with the remaining 1/2 of the 40 acres constructs townhomes. This is how cities often form. It is not a good thing for overall planning or quality of life.

Richard M. Harrison

“Contributing Editor’s Note” December 2000

As I read Dennis Mouland’s editorial in the December 2000 issue, I could not help but think about the perception that the general public likely has about our profession. Yes, four-year degrees and continuing education provide us with some of the information required to be professionals daily and to serve the profession. But how much of this spills out to the public? We have been working for years to advance the profession internally through various legislative measures, but have done little to present this information to the public, and therefore, to future clients.

Each and every one of us, whether we like it or not, is a salesperson marketing our profession to the public every day of the week. This marketing takes place on Sunday morning in church, at your child’s t-ball game on Tuesday, at lunch on Wednesday, as well as when we stand before a total station or perform deed research in the courthouse.

Our actions say much about our profession. Five monuments in a one-foot circle, all claiming to be the same corner, falls under an action that only hurts the profession. Bragging about doing the cheapest surveys in the area or bad-mouthing other surveyors is an action that does much more harm than good to both the profession and ourselves. And, as Mr. Mouland states, “we all pay the price” for these actions.

If we want surveying to be perceived as a profession and make big pay, we need to start by being perceived as a profession by both our own ranks as well as the public. I agree with Mr. Mouland that we have advanced toward this with continuing education and degree requirements, but this is basically intra-profession and does little to advance our professional status outside of our own ranks. If we do not appear to be professionals in both our actions and appearance, we will not be perceived as professionals in the eyes of the public.

Degree requirements and continuing education will only strengthen the surveying profession, and we need them desperately. However, there is much more to it than that. This is where our inaction comes into the mix. We need to provide good quality PR about the profession at every chance available.

How can public perception of our profession improve if we do not promote what we do as a professional service? The simplistic answer is that it will not likely improve without an action on our part. Volunteer as a speaker at functions in your area, contribute articles about surveying and the profession to newspapers and other public print media, and attend career day at your local school. Each state professional society or the ACSM should have informational leaflets about the profession for distribution to the public. Call your society and order some to carry in your survey trucks and pass them out at every possible chance.

This change will not happen overnight. However, if we all contribute a little, it will change a lot, and professional image and big pay will follow.

Dean D. Exline, PS Wilmington, N.C.

Editor’s Note:

The second paragraph of the HEEP story printed in The Latest News section of POB’s December issue was published in a way that could be confusing. Although Keith Bentley of Bentley Systems did speak on the topic of LandXML, the development was pioneered and funded by Autodesk Inc., San Rafael, Calif. Look for an in-depth article on this new innovation to the industry in an upcoming issue.

Send your thoughts to the editor at brownl@bnp.com or mail to: Letters to the Editor, POB magazine, 755 W. Big Beaver Rd., Suite 1000, Troy, MI 48084. The ideas and opinions expressed by our readers do not necessarily reflect those of POB.


The announcement about Art Mastronicola in the December department of Turning Points was incorrect. Mr. Mastronicola was installed, not appointed, as president of the Florida Surveying and Mapping Society. The installation was made by the society itself, not by Consul-Tech Engineering. We apologize for the error.