As Land Surveyors we are typically the first professional service that is needed in the process of designing and applying for a permit for any new construction. We offer topographic surveys that employ our expertise in re-establishing property lines and relating them to existing features on site. When a client approaches us, we first research their property history by examining existing Land Title records. This initial research helps us understand the potential challenges of re-establishing the property lines. The primary factor when assessing these potential challenges is the probability of finding property pins or markers, which are the legal survey markers set during the initial subdivision or creation of the property. Some of the items we consider when we examine the original subdivision plan:
- Older plans that predate the 1950’s have typically set mostly wooden posts as legal markers to mark the property corners. In mostly all urban areas these markers would have since been disintegrated or destroyed.
- Even plans from the 1960’s to the 1990’s which may have set iron property pins may prove difficult depending on the neighbourhood, landscaping and or fencing completed in the area may have often disturbed or destroyed survey markers.
A scenario to further prove my point, we recently had a survey where the client was looking to tear down his home and build a new house. The original subdivision plan of the property was from 1983 and it comprises of more than 30 lots where all lots had iron property pins placed. For a surveyor this is ideal as iron property pins vastly increases the probability of finding the property corners and consequently ease the complexity of re-establishing the property lines. However, after an exhaustive search we had only found one property pin on the subject property and just a few other property pins in the entire neighbourhood. What made it worse was that there were a lot of houses in the neighbourhood that had been constructed in the last 5 years. The issue is that the municipality in which the project is located does not require a posting plan as part of the permit. This brings me to why I believe all municipalities should consider enforcing posting plans as part of the permit application for a new construction. To further clarify by new construction, I am referring specifically to any new construction that does not require subsequent legal plans, such as a demolition of an old house and subsequent new construction of a house.
So that we are clear on all the terms, what is a posting plan? A posting plan is a legal plan that is typically used to reset missing property markers and or corners. The layman may ask “why is a posting plan needed when a professional surveyor is being hired?”. Going back to that scenario of the project we completed where we had only found only a few property pins in the entire neighbourhood; what happens if in a few years all the property pins are gone? The role of the surveyor is re-establishing property lines based on the best evidence available, it is feasible that in that neighbourhood the best evidence becomes fences and existing houses. This scenario is not ideal for the municipality or for the property owners of that neighbourhood as the certainty on the extent of these million dollar properties becomes more ambiguous. There are at least 5 municipalities in the Lower Mainland that require a posting plan. I would encourage all municipalities to include the following wording in their building permit application:
“A posting plan is required if one or more of the original posts of the subject property is missing”