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Survey Division

Jeff Hobbs, Chief
9250 Bendix Road
Columbia, MD 21045
410-313-2417

The Survey Division is comprised of field and office staff to provide professional management and guidance, administrative support, technical computations, geodetic control determination and development of land acquisition plats. The Division performs many types of surveys, including:

Geodetic Surveys using GPS (Global Positioning System) to establish vertical and horizontal control stations based on the State of Maryland coordinate system.

Property Surveys for the land acquisition of County projects.

Topographic Surveys for facilities design.

Easement Surveys to establish rights-of-way for road and utility improvements.

Stakeout Surveys to layout buildings, utilities and roads for construction.

Court Exhibit Surveys to establish the location of a land parcel for land acquisition.

Hydrographic Surveys to measure water depths and bottom topography of streams, ponds, lakes, and storm water management facilities.

Land Surveying And The Land Owner

What is the Land Survey? 

A land survey is the describing, monumenting, and mapping of the boundaries and corners of a parcel of land. It may also include the subdivision and layout of new lots and streets, the determination of the physical features of the land and the location of the buildings and other improvements upon the land. A land survey locates upon the ground that land which your deed describes.

Types of Surveys:

Boundary Survey - A survey for the express purpose of locating the exact boundaries and corners of a given parcel of land. This involves record and field research, field measurements and computations with the findings usually being shown on a survey plat that is given to the land owner. A description may also be required for purposes of recording a new deed.

Location Drawings - A location drawing includes Physical Improvement Surveys, House Locations and Mortgage Loan Inspections. The purpose of a location drawing is to locate, describe and represent the positions of building(s) or other visible improvements or both, affecting the inspected property. Location drawings are not Boundary Surveys and should not be used to establish boundary lines.

Topographic Survey - A survey locating features, natural and man-made, such as elevations, contours of the land, streams, buildings, fences, etc. A combination of boundary and topographic surveying is used for design and development of roads, subdivisions, industrial construction and land use studies.

Subdivision Survey - A survey for the division of any tract of land into smaller lots, with monumentation and subdivision plan conforming to the governing ordinances, and with boundary descriptions for new deeds as required.

Control Survey - Precise location both horizontally and vertically of diverse points for mapping and orientation of aerial photographs.

Court Exhibit Survey - Analysis of various descriptions, monuments and physical features for the purpose of visual display in the courtroom.

Construction Survey: 

Layout for control of construction of roads, buildings, pipelines, etc.

When is a survey advisable?

BEFORE title in land is transferred without being clearly defined by a plat and description, and located on the surface of the earth.

BEFORE land is subdivided by deed, will, or by the court.

BEFORE land is developed by the construction of buildings, roads, fences, etc.

BEFORE a boundary dispute arises or when you believe someone is encroaching upon your land.

BEFORE timber is to be cut and removed.

METHODS OF LAND SURVEYING

The class of work and degree of accuracy often determine the method most appropriate; each offering certain limitations as to cost and need.

Compass and Tape: 

Surveys with a magnetic compass and steel tape or chain. This equipment was primarily used prior to 1950. Many metes and bounds descriptions in deeds are still based on surveys performed with this equipment.

Transit and tape: 

Angles are measured with the transit and distances measured with a steel tape giving an accuracy significantly greater than the methods previously listed. This permits the more precise control necessary in land subdivision planning, construction surveying, and nearly all boundary or land title surveys. This method is used for most work at this time.

Theodolite and Electronic Distance Measuring:

With this method, angles and distances are measured with a high degree of precision, and is particularly good for control surveys and large boundary surveys. The equipment is being constantly refined and its use on smaller surveys is becoming more practical all the time.

Photogrammetric Mapping:

Topographic mapping may be done from aerial photographs and is particularly useful for large areas. Usually the photography is made precisely for the project involved. Accurate ground survey work must be used to establish measurements, both horizontally and vertically, to photo-identifiable points to insure scale and accuracy of the photo model.

GPS: 

Surveys performed using survey grade GPS (Global Positioning Systems) equipment are giving positional accuracies to +/- 1 cm. This method used in open terrain allows the surveyor to establish coordinates on the features he wishes to locate. This data is then downloaded to a computer for processing.

COST OF A LAND SURVEY

The cost of a land survey depends on many things, including the type of survey needed and the method used. Some variables which affect the cost of a land survey are:

- Required accuracy and purpose for the survey.

- Complexity of deeds; the number of parcels that need to be researched in legal records and encompassed by field surveys, many times complicated by vague, incomplete, and often contradictory legal descriptions. Deeds for abutting lands must be researched and unrecorded deeds and agreements must be resolved.

- Size and Shape; an irregular shape has more corners and a longer boundary than a square containing the same area.

- Terrain and Accessibility; a flat field is easier to survey than a mountain. Vegetation and swamps complicate the survey procedures.

- Field evidence; the existence of iron pins, stone corners, fences, designated trees, etc. aid the surveyor and their absence compound difficulties. Cooperative neighbors can be very helpful.

- Time of year; summer foliage restricts sighting distances whereas deep winter snows slow travel and conceals field evidence.

- Monumentation; the type of mounmentation requested or required to be used to mark the final boundaries and corners, i.e., concrete or cut stone markers, although more durable, require more effort to set and are more costly to obtain than iron pins.

- Plat requirement; the necessary details to be shown on the survey map as well as the requirements of the Planning Commissions, Title Insurance Companies, Engineers, Architects, etc. affect the time involved to produce the map. 

It is usually impractical to pre-determine exact costs because of the many variables. However, the PROFESSIONAL LAND SURVEYOR or PROPERTY LINE SURVEYOR can usually furnish an approximate estimate of cost.

A good survey that meets your need and legal requirements, based on careful research, and complete and accurate field and office work, may well prove to be the least expensive in the end. In essence, you get what you pay for.

You will probably require the services of a Professional Land Surveyor or Property Line Surveyor only once or twice in your lifetime. Most generally the need arises when you buy a home or parcel of land. Since this transaction represents a large and important investment to you and your family, Howard County Department of Public Works has reprinted (in part) this pamphlet is presented as a public service.

The Professional Land Surveyor and Property Line Surveyor renders a highly technical, complex service.

Depending on the need required, he may render a complete service or be a part of a professional team comprised of the surveyor, attorney, title or Mortgage Company, engineer or architect.

In times of litigation, the Profession Land Surveyor or Property Line Surveyor is often called upon to appear in court as an expert witness because his testimony is accepted as professional evidence.

No one other than the Professional Land Surveyor or Property Line Surveyor can assume the responsibility for the correctness and accuracy of his work. A licensed Engineer or Architect cannot perform boundary or property surveys in the State of Maryland.

It is very important that your surveyor communicate with you on any conditions that may change the scope of work. It is always a good idea to ask your surveyor to keep you informed on the progress of the survey.

SELECTING A SURVEYOR

For a surveyor to practice or to offer to practice surveying in the State of Maryland, he must be licensed and registered under the laws of the State of Maryland as a Surveyor and possess evidence of his current license.

Only a licensed Professional Land Surveyor or Property Line Surveyor may perform boundary surveys, land title surveys and topographic surveys in the State of Maryland. A Professional Land Surveyor or Property Line Surveyor who practices in accordance with his Society’s Code of Ethics is a credit to his community, his profession, his client or employer and to himself.

Most Professional Land Surveyors or Property Line Surveyors are listed in the “Yellow Pages” or you may consult The Maryland Society of Surveyors for a list of Professional Land Surveyors or Property Line Surveyors active in your area.

In Maryland, all surveyors must follow the “Minimum Standards of Practice” as specified in Title 09; Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation; Subtitle 13 Board for Professional Land Surveyors; Chapter 06 Minimum Standards of Practice. A copy of this can be picked up at the Howard County Survey Division Offices, located at 9250 Bendix Road, Columbia, MD 21045, telephone 410-313-2417.


 Useful Links:   

  1. Howard County Geodetic Control; 
  2. Maryland Society of Surveyors; 
  3. State Board of Land Surveyors; 
  4. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulations; 
  5. NOAA/NGS - National Geodetic Surveys; 
  6. Howard County, MD Clerks of the Court, Land Records 

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Jeff Hobbs, Chief, Survey Division, at 410-313-2417 or by e-mail.