Planning board questions surveys, subdivisions
by Margo Avakian
Nov 15, 2012 | 2196 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HALIFAX- Is an official survey required when a property is subdivided? That question has delayed approval of an application by Malcolm Sumner to convey to his daughter a two-acre parcel of land which is currently part of his Branch Road farm. The answer, as planning commission chair Howard Alboum announced at Tuesday’s meeting, is no. Neither town nor state law requires an official survey.

Alboum and town clerk Patricia Dow reported to the board and attending residents on their conversation with licensed surveyor Malcolm Moore and on Dow’s queries to the secretary of state’s office. A plat is required, but, Dow said, “A plat does not require a survey.” A plat is any “map of a small local area.” It may show only a portion of the property, and could be a drawing made by the property owner.

Some board members had questioned whether a subdivision can be officially recorded without a survey. It can. “I spoke with the secretary of state’s office,” said Dow, “and found out that I am required to record any drawing, plat, map, survey or document presented to me with the appropriate recording fee. However, if it is not a valid survey, signed and stamped by a licensed surveyor, I am to make a notation regarding that fact, and it cannot be used to record acreage.”

Absent a survey, how do the listers determine acreage for tax purposes? “The listers,” Dow said, “put that question to their district advisor and learned that they have to use the acreage on the deed.” When asked how the acreage on the deed is determined, Dow replied, “That’s up to the lawyers (who prepare the deed).”

Dow also gave the board her opinion on whether permit requirements should be revised to include an official survey. While there are some advantages to the town and the landowner if a survey is done, Dow stated strongly that she thinks it should remain optional. She recommended including a statement of the pros and cons. An official survey assures an accurate statement of acreage and that there will be no “cloud over their deed for possible future generations.” But it is expensive.

Using a plat instead of a survey is far less costly, but is more work for the landowner, who must measure and mark the proposed subdivision as accurately as possible. It also could result in boundary disputes in the future.

Zoning administrator Rick Gay will do a site visit to determine if the two-acre plot is marked accurately as drawn on the plat provided by Sumner. The board made its decision on Sumner’s application in a deliberative session held after the public meeting was adjourned.

In other business, Alboum announced that as of November 1, 2012, Halifax has been officially enrolled in the National Flood Insurance Program. The vote to apply for membership was held at Town Meeting last March.

Board member Linda Smith told her colleagues that she has received an offer to get all the demographic information in the town plan updated on a pro bono basis.

“If the town is awarded the planning grant it has applied for,” Smith said, “this would allow the board to use the funds for expert advice on actual substantive planning.”

If, for example, demographic projections showed that the school-age population is likely to drop drastically, “How do we plan for that?” If the average age of townspeople is projected to be over 65, “How do we plan for the services we will need?”

“The board could,” Smith concluded, “brainstorm how we literally move this town forward.”

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