Nothing But Blind Pitiless Indifference: Boundary Monuments, Deferral and the Public Interest

Editor’s note: The following article appeared in the July 2010 issue of Survey Review, a UK-based worldwide surveying magazine. Although it pertains to Canada, it addresses the practice of "deferring" the setting of subdivision property corners, something that is also popular in certain U.S. jurisdictions. Because construction activities often destroy these corners, surveyors are allowed to defer setting the property corners until after the completion of construction. The article also addresses "the slippery slope to the wide-spread use of coordinates in place of monuments to define boundaries." Following is the abstract of the article and at the bottom a link to the entire article:

Boundary monuments in Canada have long been asserted to be a public good. Such goods, however, be they monuments or water and sewerage systems, are only in the public interest if they are reliable. Some 800 boundary monuments in 26 residential subdivisions in the province of Alberta were closely inspected (using metal detectors and shovels) for their reliability. Four findings resulted. First, monuments established immediately upon survey, but before servicing and construction, are reliable only 60% of the time. Second, deferring establishment for 4.5 months increases the reliability of the monuments by only 10%; they are reliable 70% of the time. Third, the practice of not deferring establishment until house construction is the reason that deferral is ineffective at significantly enhancing the reliability of monuments. Fourth, although enhanced deferral is in the public interest (if boundary monuments are a public good), land surveyors are reluctant to embrace a longer deferral period. This reluctance is partly a function of wanting to appease clients who prefer to locate house foundations from boundary monuments, and partly a function of viewing deferral as the slippery slope to the wide-spread use of coordinates in place of monuments to define boundaries. This reluctance, however, leads to a logical contradiction: If monuments are a public good, then their reliability only 60 – 70% of the time is intolerable. Conversely, if monuments are not a public good, then their current use is questionable.

A 450Kb PDF of the complete article can be found HERE