Surveying question

I was reading another post where it was said that among other things, Surveyors prevent arguments about who owns what.

So this brings up a question for the Surveyors here.

I am located in Ontario Canada. My neighbour several farms over is having a screaming dispute with the daughter of the farmer who owns the farm next to him after he passed away. She isn’t the typical farmers daughter. She says they own the laneway between the farms while everyone else around here says my neighbour owns it. So she hired a surveyor to stake the property line. Apparently, he was seen pulling out survey stakes and moving them. Apparently, he also destroyed a concrete monument in the process. This was witnessed by a third party neighbour. The property line stakes he put in wander all over the place as plainly evident to my own eye.

Anyway, the neighbour and I went down to the municipal office where survey drawings are kept that describe each farm in the municipality. We pulled and copied all the drawings for the entire block of land.

First off, there was no drawing for the neighbours farm. We were told it was the original farm and drawings were only made for new farms as they were severed off???

I suggested that we try to make a drawing by using all the adjacent surveys drawings. We failed miserably because the adjacent surveys don’t agree with each other. In fact, I discovered that the west boundary of my own farm as shown on my own drawing is different from the east boundary of the farm next door in terms of BOTH distances and angles! The difference puts about 3 meters of land in question at the far back. While that neighbour and I get along just fine, it’s easy to see that such a difference could easily put my other neighbours laneway into question.

To make matters worse, I have heard that it’s common place around here for farmers to move survey stakes in the moonlight. I know of at least one that mysteriously moved after I bought my own farm. This stake is on the opposite side of my farm from the side where the boundary differs on the drawings and really isn’t a problem for me (that I know of) because it is in a scrub area that is not farmable. It’s just the ethics of it all.

My questions are:

  1. How in the world can it happen that survey drawings for adjacent properties do not match? I would have thought that any new survey would require a comparison with drawings for adjacent properties and that any moved survey stakes would have to be reported by Surveyors staking out a property.

  2. What can/should be done to properly resolve any differences? If another survey only creates a new set of stakes different from the first survey, what real progress is made?

Susquatch, I’ve been in the surveying profession since I was 14. My brother and I have been licensed for over 35 years.

  1. Standard procedure here in SC. Different versions of magnetic north, procedures and referencing previous maps or plats. We’ve been referencing our surveys to the NSRS (National Spatial Reference System) since our dad started this business in 1972. The problem most Surveyors have in retracement is inaccurate surveys to begin with and trying to find original corners mentioned in deeds and plats of record. It’s a cardinal sin for Surveyors to pull up or replace a property corner, no matter how inaccurate it is or not called for in deeds and plats. A good Surveyor will locate and prove the inaccuracies of the corner in question. The problem with some Surveyors is lack of research and poor surveying methodology. Lines of occupation also are a factor, i.e. fences, hedgerows, tree lines, rock walls, berm lines etc. A good Surveyor will show all features and make a decision on wether to accept a corner or set a new one based on located field data. Surveyors opinions are like rear ends, everybody has one. However, it’s the Surveyor that can prove his data to the client, other Surveyors and in court that usually wins. I’ve been in three court cases and was instrumental in winning our client cases by being thorough in my research, in the data collected and the mapping of the project. That’s the kind of Surveyor you need. It won’t be cheap either. Interview the Surveyors you think that could prove your neighbor wrong, you’ll know just by talking to him.

  2. If there’s no agreement in the boundaries, usually a meeting with all landowners and Surveyors involved can agree to a solution. If so, this needs to be documented, attorneys involved for quit claims between neighbors if needed and recorded in the local government register of deeds office. This is the easiest way. If not, the only winners will be the attorneys in a court of law, this will cost far more than agreeing to a solution. You don’t have to like your neighbors, you just have to get along with them. I’ve always told my clients this in any dispute and it usually works.


This is good advice Bryan. It not only explains what probably happened but suggests a path forward. None of us will be hiring the guy that surveyed my neighbour’s neighbour’s place. In my humble opinion, the evidence suggests he would get caught in the sewage filter.

I have a long history of dealing with court cases on behalf of my employer. Usually the only person who wins is the lawyers. Sometimes they are even buddies. The worst situation arises when people engage based on emotions. This might be one of those situations for my neighbour and his next door neighbour. I’ve personally seen her screaming at people before they even get to say hi.

In my own case, calmer heads will prevail. I am pretty sure I know who moved the stake and it isn’t the neighbour himself… Nuff said.

The other side of my farm is a zero issue. I get along great with that neighbour and I’d bet we can agree on something reasonable.

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So glad I live in Western Canada, Vision of an ordered Land, survey straighter than and better recorded than land in Salt Lake City Utah (and those Mormons sure know how to survey).

After seeing the American Wild west free for all, we got the Dominion land survey before mass settlement.

Its nice being able to have a central land registry, and being able to phone a surveyor to settle disputes quickly.

What a gift of being last to develop.


I hear you. My great grandfather got and settled a nice quarter in Saskatchewan after immigrating from Germany, and then as the family grew, so did the farm. Sections are awesome. Even the correction jogs are a blessing.

Ya, and then my dad moved us east to an area where the French had laid everything out in 100 acre stripes. (stripe is not a typo - it’s way worse than a strip…)


There was a reason for stripes and it’s geomorphological. The farmable terrain along the St. Lawrence went from the river to the mountainside. It’s not flatland like southern Ontario or the prairies where it can be neatly divided in squares. So to make it fair to all farmers, everyone got either a frontage on the river, or frontage on a “rank road” (chemin de rang) which ran perpendicular to the plots. Every now and then there would be a “climb road” (montée) running between plots to access the rank roads.

But that system was pretty tame compared to the star shaped Trait-Carré, which was devised so the farmland was arranged around a town center (mostly for defense).


Wow measurement nightmare, but if your riding your horse drunk, you know your getting closer to town if the lands getting smaller.

When I read your description I envisioned interlocking star shaped pieces of land. And thought oh god no that cant be a thing.


Makes sense. God I miss the prairies…

Too funny. I’ve seen a drunk horse… Ate too many rotten apples…

I’ve also seen pie shaped land, as well as farm homes all in the village with the beasts on the ground floor and all the people upstairs.

An interesting notable. Everyone thinks the Europeans are smarter than the Americans because they have smaller cars. It ain’t so. Europeans developed the cities centuries ago when everyone rode on horses or buggies. So their roads are narrow. Cars came later on. So they developed small cars to fit the roads. North America was developed in stride with vehicles. So we have bigger vehicles and bigger roads.


Can you back that up with actual sources? :wink:

I remember when a plane I was on was landing in Germany.

I thought what a nightmare to survey or farm. So many odd shaped little parcels of land.

Then story of the London fire, and subsequent survey must also have been a mess.

In Alberta and Saskatchewan you can drive straight east or west on most country roads for 50km+ Easy. The only thing that gets in the way is towns, lakes and mountains.

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Not sure if you are having fun or really want more info. If so, I’m happy to see what I can find. :wink:

It is the first time ever I have heard that rationale, so yeah…
I would say car-sizes in Europe are driven by fuel-prices for the last 40 years (but I can’t back that up with a source).

I know it from my career as an engineer in the auto industry. I believe I was originally told that factum by other engineers at an automotive conference in Paris 35 years ago.

I will guess you can find data to support lots of different theories though. Over the course of the last century, vehicles have become an integral part of life in the developed world. But there is one factor that every automotive expert would agree on - that vehicles have evolved, are designed, and are offered to the public in response to consumer demand. No sales = bankruptcy.

Right off the top, it’s easy to agree that fuel prices have become a driving force everywhere. 40 years is not an unreasonable observation for that for Europe. Canada’s fuel prices are higher than they are in the US because of fuel taxes and fuel taxes are the biggest part of the difference in fuel cost in Europe too. The result is a slightly smaller vehicle mix in Canada.

However, cars and even delivery vehicles have always been small in Europe and big in North America. Long before fuel taxes were an issue One look at the old streets in almost any major city in Europe and even many backroads and its pretty obvious that the cars we had here even 40 years ago were not going to fit. Big cities in Europe are often 300 to 500 years old - long before cars and trucks.

Anecdotally, my wife and I took a road trip in Europe about 25 years ago. We rented a Peugeot. It’s amazing how much trouble we had navigating those tiny roads with a small car that even in places where the roads didn’t need to be so small. We had to pull off the road and even back up from time to time because there was not enough room for two vehicles simultaneously.

In fact, I also know (but probably couldn’t find a source for you) that the standard lane size in North America is 12ft almost everywhere. It is only 8 to 10 in Europe on major roads, a bit bigger on highways, and even smaller in the old cores of most cities. The same goes for average parking spot size in the big cities.

Convenience and practicality have always been major driving forces for vehicle purchases all over the world. Nobody wants a big vehicle if there is no parking spot for it. The convenience factor is another really big one. That’s a primary reason why trucks and mini-vans are so popular here. Truth be told, maybe only 10 to 20% of large pickup truck and van buyers really need a large vehicle. It would be much cheaper to buy something small and rent the bigger vehicle when they need it. But hardly anyone does that. They buy whatever they “might” need once in a while.

With some noteable exceptions, disposable income (the amount of money left over after the bills and taxes are paid) is much higher in the USA than in most of the rest of the world. The result is more and bigger vehicles per capita too.

In more recent years, regulations all over the world (especially fuel economy - first driven by the energy crisis and now by climate change) have been a huge influence on vehicle design and size.

But ya, I would agree that fuel cost has become the major driver in recent years. Before that other factors and especially the history and age of major cities which drove convenience and practicality was the major factor.

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