A Nation of Parcels

The national parcel polygon service is a modest effort with achievable goals. We must prove we can assemble and maintain this data. That it can be a national and public resource. We can overcome institutional barriers combining data from multiple data stewards and sources.

Who provides this data?

The Data Steward is the primary data provider for parcel data. These are typically the local jurisdiction, a town, a city, a county and in some cases a state agency. The parcel data is often tax parcels, collected to support the records in the real estate tax system…

A Nation of Parcels — Part 1

This is not a new concept. Providing or serving all the parcels in the nation in one place has been a part of the discussions since the first multipurpose cadastre discussions in the 1970’s and 80’s. David Moyer has documented a decade-by-decade history of the development of a national parcel data system that can be found here https://nationalcad.org/download/LandRecordModernizationHistory-Moyer.pdf

The national parcel polygons service is a web-based effort that would be a publicly accessible and annually updated web service seamlessly providing parcel polygons and a local parcel identifier for every parcel in the country.

In previous posts we have reviewed the types of parcels, the approaches for assigning identifiers, the rules and policies for how and when to assign parcel identifiers, and some of the limitations and uses for parcel identifiers.

In a nutshell the parcel identifier is:

· Assigned by the data producer at the time of data creation and update

· Managed by the rules and procedures established by the data producer

· Guided for format, content, and placement in most states

The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) Subcommittee on Cadastral Data Cadastral Data Content Standard provides guidance on parcel identifiers, indicating…

Brian Smith (https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vectorbomb?searchterm=old%20town%20road)

“I’m gonna take my horse
To the old town road
I’m gonna ride ’til I can’t no more” Lil Nas X

One of my earliest memories of working with parcel maps in rural Wisconsin were the disappearing roads or the “go ’til you can’t no more” roads. Of course, the roads weren’t disappearing but the dedicated or purchased rights of ways that stood as separate parcels did. In agricultural (rural) areas the parcels were described as continuous adjoining lands with prescriptive right roads along the property lines. …

There are many books and references on networking and applying network principles to least squares analysis. In 2021 a pedestrian sampling includes one of the “for dummies” books and You Tube videos in addition to more scholarly and academic texts and papers, however, this is not a technical treatise on the conditions or methods for running an analysis. Instead, I want to propose some parcel unique considerations related to analyzing and adjusting networks for parcel maps.

When a land surveyor evaluates evidence and completes measurements including tying the project or parcel to control networks, it is a logical follow on…

This is a small example of how influencers can propagate actions well beyond their initial story or event. It ties into parcel maintenance eventually.

In July of 2020 an influencer I follow on Twitter posted that she was using an air fryer, describing an example of a recent success. The thread included some additional recipes and a link to the specific air fryer she had purchased.

Given that it was summer and who wants to heat up the kitchen to cook dinner in the summer, I used the link and purchased a similar product. I used it for a few…


Nearly all jurisdictions have a starting digital parcel data set. There are very few jurisdictions that are starting from scratch with hard copy or no parcel maps. This means that parcel data set efforts are, for the most part, focused on maintenance. There are levels of maintenance that reflect the maturity, completeness, and accuracy of the parcel data. All maintenance includes adding new transactions.

1. Enhancements — This is the highest level and most routine maintenance. These parcel data sets have a solid control network and complete coverage for the jurisdiction. Maintenance may include “spot” or “local area” control…

In December 2010 Planet Money Team broadcast an article on “What Should Government Pay For? Autopsies and Lighthouses”


A few interesting quotes from this article

“Lawmakers have spent a lot of time lately debating what to do about the country’s growing deficit. In doing so, they’re wrestling with the question that goes back to the beginning of the Republic: What should the government spend its money on?”

“A public good is something that we all need, that will make our lives better — but that the market will not and cannot provide.”

In the case for lighthouses initially there…

PLSS Special Surveys

PLSS Special Surveys are non-rectangular PLSS surveys. They are deviations from the hierarchical rectangular surveys and are defined or guided by provisions of legislation or authorities. PLSS Special Surveys can “sit on top” of rectangular surveys or they can replace the rectangular surveys, creating a “hole” in the rectangular surveys. In some cases a nominal rectangular survey is extended through the special surveys.

PLSS Special Surveys are not found in many eastern states data sets because at the time of the PLSS Surveys in the eastern states, the non-rectangular survey types had not been well established. Also…

Pattern of PLSS Sections in imagery

Sections — First Divisions of Townships

The PLSS Townships are typically divided into 36 Sections (nominally one mile on a side), but in the national standard this feature is called the first division because Townships can be divided into non-section features. Most local governments, and even places where Townships are not sectionalized, the GIS attribute and feature will be called Sections or Section Number.

nancy vonmeyer

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