Why do we have state boards of registration for surveyors? The answer is pretty simple. Damages from our mistakes can easily exceed our client’s assets, not to mention our own. I’m not talking about the price of a bad haircut, either. I’m talking about catastrophic loss of property, assets, and resources. Simple examples include errors with residential property lines or construction stakes. Complex issues arise when we consider duties like the placement of high rise buildings. Setting aside the millions of dollars at stake from errors, vertical and highway construction present extreme occupational risks of personal injury and death. Vertical and commercial construction is a costly endeavor and the risk takers require competence from their partners. State licensing boards provide the measure of competence for high stakes development.
As our federal and state governments drape their public concerns over our private land development process we see a greater need for state boards to monitor minimum competence among land surveyors. The foundation of licensure is to maintain an unbiased cadre that represents facts objectively to the public. The agencies thrusting these social interests on our private endeavors are liable to the same standards as everyone else. The agency, the public, and the private developer are all protected fiscally, ethically, and morally by engaging the neutral registrant vetted through the state board. This impartial surveyor is responsible for objectively laying down the extents of rights between those competing private and public interests. The interloping agency can assert their standards to the professional and expect compliance with the private developer’s project deliverables.
Further protection is afforded to the public through an unbiased peer review process. I’ll tell you first hand that a truly unbiased peer review makes neither a grumpy public nor a disenfranchised registrant happy. What it should accomplish is a determination of compliance with the standards adopted by your state. The reason the public may not be happy is the same reason they hire you in the first place. They simply are not familiar with the pertinent laws, standards, and accepted practices.
Lately there seems to be a sentiment that the state land surveying boards are some unnecessary and burdensome form of regulation restricting free markets. Quite frankly that’s a misrepresentation. The restrictive regulations that burden my clients are generated by the local planning agencies and state statutes influenced by land development lobbyists, Realtors, and construction interests. At the federal level we see FEMA, EPA, USACOE, and BLM impacting the timeliness and budgets of my client’s projects. These agencies assure public compliance by relying on the individual state’s licensure process as the standard of minimum competence. Any land owner, be they “mom n’ pop” or the most sophisticated international developer must circumnavigate through an ocean of regulation. The surveyor has emerged as the public’s chaperon through the red tape that strangles private land development. Ironically the regulation imposed on obtaining a land survey licensing is minimal. The initial fees associated with applications and testing are dimes to dollars when compared to paying the taxes and fees collected when purchasing a new vehicle. Annual renewals are less than a monthly cable TV bill. I don’t experience any unnecessary cost restriction in maintaining my various licenses. Nor, have I experienced any protectionism with regard to obtaining licenses in multiple states. Good or bad, the only restriction to licensure that comes to mind is in states that have elected to bar applicants not possessing a bachelor’s degree. Otherwise, our experience requirements seem commensurate with a reasonable professional gestation period. So, long story short, the board is the public watchdog carrying the professional yardstick.