ALTA / NSPS Land Title Survey

Generally referred to as ALTA surveys, they are boundary surveys that meet the standards set forth by the American Land Title Association (ALTA) & the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) (Formerly ACSM - American Congress on Surveying and Mapping).

When purchasing commercial real estate, it is important to protect your investment, for that reason most purchasers and lenders request/require Title Insurance.  However before issuing title insurance, title insurance companies require, among other items, a detailed survey showing the property in question.  Based on the needs of title insurance companies, ALTA and NSPS have put together a list of minimum requirements for this survey, Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys (Effective February 23, 2016).




FAA 1A & 2C Certifications

When building tall structures, like cell towers, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires documentation of the proposed structures height as part of their "aeronautical study process."  During this process, the FAA may request a "certified survey with an accuracy of either 1A (+20 ft horizontally +3ft vertically) or 2C (+50 ft horizontally +20 ft vertically)" per their Survey Accuracy standards.



Elevation Certificate

An Elevation Certificate is used to document your building's elevation, so that it can be compared to the estimated height of projected flood waters to help determine "your flood risk and the cost of your flood insurance."  

Per FEMA, "If your home or business is in a high-risk area, your insurance agent will likely need an elevation Certificate (EC) to determine your flood insurance premium."  These high risk areas, or Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) are described by FEMA as "the area that will be inundated by the flood event having a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year."  The "1-percent" flood event is also commonly referred to as the 100-year storm.

FEMA has put together a very informative guide to help property owners determine if they need an Elevation Certificate:

Elevation Certificates: Who Needs Them and Why

For more information, visit FEMA's webpage on Elevation Certificate

Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA)

A Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) is typically issued "because a property has been inadvertently mapped as being in the floodplain, but is actually on natural high ground above the base flood elevation."

A LOMA is an "official amendment, by letter, to an effective National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) map."  Much like how the Elevation Certificate helps to establish the building's elevation as compared to the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), as outlined above, the LOMA, establishes a property's elevation in relation to the SFHA.

For more information, visit FEMA's webpage on Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA)


Location Survey

Location Survey

What is a Location Survey

Think of a Location survey as an Approximate Survey.    The goal is to approximately determine the location of the property lines, buildings, and any other improvements (driveway, sidewalk, retaining walls, etc.) and how they relate to one another.  All of this information is then illustrated on a drawing, referred to as a Location Drawing, or sometimes a House Location Drawing

Location Surveys / Drawings are not accurate

Again it is important to remember that a Location Survey is an approximation of what is actually on a property.  The goal isn't to determine exactly where things are, instead the goal is to determine where things are in relation to one another.  For example, does the House appear to be inside the property lines? Yes or No? 

Why Location Surveys / Drawings are not accurate

Let's break this question down into two parts:

1. Wouldn't inaccurate Surveys mislead & confuse? 

Yes, yes they would, and they do.  Countless home owners assume what is shown on a Location Drawing is accurate, and they use them to determine where to install landscaping, trees, or even fences.  This often then leads to disputes with adjoining neighbors who claim that they placed said tree's or fencing on their property.  Ultimately a land surveyor is called to try to determine where the actual property line is by performing a Boundary Survey.  The lesson here being that a Location Survey is NOT a Boundary Survey

2. If Location Surveys mislead & confuse, then why do them?

Why do an "Approximate" Location Survey?  Clearly they lead to confusion and headaches, why not just always do a Boundary Survey?  The answer to that question is two fold; what the lender requires & cost.  The Location Survey is the main survey tool your Lender, Title Insurance Company, or other agent uses during refinancing or purchasing a home.  It gives them a general idea of where things are, and that's typically enough for them to sign off on your loan.  This is good news in that Location Surveys are much less expensive than Boundary Surveys, since they are easier to perform taking surveyors mere hours instead of days to complete.  To highlight this point consider that Location Surveys will usually run in the 100's of dollars, where as Boundary Surveys will usually run in the 1,000's of dollars.


Stormwater Management

Stormwater Management

Stormwater Management in Maryland

The Stormwater Management Act of 2007 (Act) set forth new statewide standards for implementing Stormwater Management (SWM) on both Residential & Commercial projects.   The Act requires that Environmental Site Design (ESD), through the use of nonstructural best management practices and other better site design techniques, be implemented to the maximum extent practicable.  To aid Land Surveyors & Civil Engineers in designing these practices, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) published an update to the Maryland Stormwater Design Manual, Volumes I and II (October 2000, Revised May 2009) (Manual).

Three Step Approach to ESD

1. Smart Design: Minimizing Impervious Areas & Implementing Alternative Surfaces.  The less impervious areas you have, i.e. sidewalks, driveways, and buildings, the less SWM you have to provide.  So minimizing impervious area, if possible, is a great way to reduce the magnitude & cost of SWM.  An alternative is to incorporate SWM into your impervious surface utilizing a green roof or permeable pavement.

2. Nonstructural Practices:  If the site has relatively flat slopes (<5%) and soils that infiltrate well, a portion of the required SWM can often be satisfied using simple and relatively inexpensive methods.  These methods will allow for rain water runoff to drain over a flat grassed area and naturally infiltrate into the ground.  Two great opportunities to use this credit, as the Manual refers to it, are with Rooftop Disconnect (water runoff from downspouts), and Non-rooftop Disconnect (water runoff from roads, driveways, and sidewalks).

3. Micro-Scale Practices:  Often, even after utilizing Smart Design & Nonstructural Practices the SWM requirements for the project have not been satisfied.  At this point the Manual requires the implementation of Structural Practices.  Also referred to as Micro-Scale Practices, these devices all implement a method for holding rain water runoff, and allowing it to infiltrate directly into the ground or releasing it slowly to incerase the opportunity for downstream infiltration.  These devices can include: Rain Barrels,  Submerged Gravel Wetlands, Landscape Infiltration, Infiltration Berms, Dry Wells, Micro-Bioretention, Rain Gardens, Bio-swales, Wet Swales, and Enhanced Filters.

How Much SWM / ESD Do I Need?

The Manual establishes a formula which factors in the projects total disturbed area, total impervious area, and existing soil infiltration rates to calculate a volume of rain water runoff that must be stored.  Furthermore, each one of the devices described above, beyond having certain rules for it's application, also has a formula to calculate how much of this volume it satisfies.  Projects take one of two possible routes, either the entire required volume is stored, thus satisfying the SWM / ESD requirements for the site, or after exhausting all available methods, it is proven that ESD has been implemented to the Maximum Extent Practicable (MEP).   The later implying that no other SWM / ESD devices are possible due to site conditions, such as; steep slopes, insufficient space, or soils that do not infiltrate (clay soils).  Notably, aesthetics & costs are not valid justifications to support implementing ESD to the MEP, so it is very important to factor SWM into a projects budget.