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ROW Changes Over Time vs Property Corners  



As you go back in time on property along a county road where the easement is not owned by the county but goes through a property, lots that align next to the county road will have deeds that read 30 ft ROW and over time the county changed to a 50 ft ROW. Surveyors will commonly use the current ROW width as they stake out the deed and spend little to no time doing research as a deed stake out only is not a retracement survey. Obviously property owners dont just "get" an extra ten feet of land from the senior property they were subdivided from. Surveyors see the length of a line from when the ROW was 30 ft and make it ten feet longer making a new corner or even better the famous "pincushion" corner although consumers are "led" to believe that such a survey is what they own as more land is lost from the senior property each time the ROW is increased. If a property line distance was based on a 30ft ROW and it is changed to 50 ft of ROW, is it correct that the actual ownership line should be or become or remains as ten feet shorter?? The dates of change should be provable through the road docket records of the county.

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What I have encountered is laziness/sloppiness on the part of a surveyor or techs who do not do the appropriate level of research before going to the field.  In a nearby town there is an area where every deed starts off with wording like: beginning 75 feet west of Osage Street on the north line of Galveston Street, thence 50 feet west along the north line of Galveston Street, thence...........

The original width of Galveston street was 40 feet.  At a later point it was expanded to 50 feet by going north 10 feet and the south line not moving.  Then at an even later point it was expanded to 60 feet by adding five feet on each side.  Confusing, right????  Then you add in the wording from the deed to further confuse things.  One must go back to the date the first deed was written and also learn the width that applied at that exact point in time.  Looking at all such deeds along the block line helps because a very old deed may have a depth of 150 feet.  One that was written after the 10 foot change on the north may have been written to say a depth of 140 feet, thus keeping the back lines in alignment.  The true depth today is 135 feet for all of the lots.  It also helps to research the deeds that abut the back lines.  In this case they are written in similar fashion off another street but it's width did not change.  The key difference in this case is that the street widening took place by purchase, not easement.  That is the other element that must be researched in advance.


I am not familiar specifically with your location or circumstances.  Typically the facts that apply at the time of the original deed are what determine the location of the boundary lines.  Any subsequent road widening would just change the characteristics at the road.  No other boundary lines would be affected by the road widening.  It would seem any further surveying should be aware of these details and treat them accordingly.

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I don't recall where you are, and that may make a difference.

The theory in much of the US is that unless the land for the road was purchased by the governing entity (typical for major roads), the roadway is a easement (typical for minor rural roads) and the property owner still owns the land taken to make the road but has given others the right to build and use the road (including a wider width than the traveled part).

How the easement width gets increased with no obvious documentation is a mystery to me, although I've seen it apparently happen.

I think surveyors and GIS systems should show the full ownership and the easement in these situations, but it doesn't seem to be the norm.

City lots in patted subdivisions are a different situation. There, the street was typically dedicated to the public at the creation of the subdivision and the homeowner owns only to a line short of the sidewalk, but has the responsibility to maintain the public's property from there to the curb.

@bill93 Thought you might enjoy this note from your state.

added width

I cannot envision any jurisdiction working that way. It wouldn't pass constitutional muster. States snd politicsl subdivisions cannot take property unrelated to a right-of-way through the incompetence and laziness of a (sub)professional surveyor.


I'm working on one today, the original easement was 60' and was expanded to 80'. This is a county road and the monuments to mark the road are on the right of way line. The ownerships along this east-west county road extend to the centerline.

Typically the 40' of ownership is not monumented in the centerline, since roadway maintenance and snow plowing often destroy the centerline monuments on gravel roads in this region. 

The monuments along the right of way become witness or reference markers the land area and property line lengths remain the same size. 

The area in the county road is considered waste land and can be removed from taxation when requested by the private owner. 

This varies by state and type of roadway. 

Along the east line of the same property is a State Highway monumented and granted to the state highway department as fee title, no ownership in that roadway remains for the private landowner. 

So....the 30' offset monuments if there were any were shifted to a 40' offset, marking the limits of the county easement but not changing the lot lines. 

Take the next step in your career, PPI will get you there


Wouldn't there be documentation where the owners of the lots were compensated for the widening?

I can't get past the "deed stakes aren't retracement surveys" comment.  I hope I never get licensed in a state where people do "deed stakes" and don't do a full boundary research and retracement!  


In this area and possibly many areas, if you are doing work for only a few hundred dollars or a "multi discount" for more than one owner there is no time to do pesky research or talk to anyone who can slow you down.... not telling clients that a stake out of the deed they hand you is NOT a retracement survey or assures what they own falls clearly into the "consumer fraud" category. More problems created leads to more money for the "professionals" who are called in to unravel it. Doesn't sound like an ethical approach to create so much havoc.....

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