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Executive Summary There is a critical need for a better land-information system in the United States to improve land-conveyance procedures, furnish a basis for equitable taxation, and provide much-needed information for resource management and environmental planning. Land-information systems in the United States can be characterized in general as title and assessment records systems, most of which have under- gone relatively small changes in the last hundred years, and land-planning and -management systems, which have evolved in the last 20 years. Problems inherent in our present system may be categorized as accessibil- ity, duplication, aggregation, confidentiality, and institutional structure (see Section 2.2). Resolution of these problems would reduce recording-office costs, which from 1971 statistics amounted to $137 million, and the land- transfer costs for residential and farm real estate, which were estimated to amount to more than $17 billion in 1974. Because of the inadequacies of our governmental records system, a number of institutions such as title insurance firms, abstractors, mapping companies, and utilities have developed their own duplicative land-information systems. The concept of the multipurpose cadastre is a framework that supports continuous, readily available, and comprehensive land-related information at the parcel level. The components of a multipurpose cadastre are the following: 1. A reference frame consisting of a geodetic network; 2. A series of current, accurate large-scale maps; 3. A cadastral overlay delineating all cadastral parcels; 4. A unique identifying number assigned to each parcel that is used as a common index of all land records in information systems; and
2 NEED FOR A MULTIPURPOSE CADASTRE 5. A series of land data files, each including a parcel identifier for purposes of information retrieval and linking with information in other data files. While this report is primarily concerned with the reference frame, base maps, and cadastral overlay components of the multipurpose cadastre, the other elements of the cadastre are discussed, albeit briefly, in order to provide a complete picture of the system. There is a considerable amount of activity directed at improving our land- information system (see Sections 2.3-2.6). Programs instituted at the county level to improve land-recording procedures, indexing, computer data handling, computer mapping of utilities, monumentation of public-land survey-system corners, and physical mapping have been in progress for a number of years. Several states have under way control surveying and base-mapping programs and have developed land data files, which are necessary components of an effi- cient land-information system. Federal agencies have developed special pro- grams for particular land-information areas, such as the Taxable Property Values Survey by the Bureau of the Census and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act studies by the Department of Housing and Urban Develop- ment. Federal agencies have funded a number of land-information pilot proj- ects and have assisted local and state agencies in their surveying and mapping activities (see Section 2.6.2). The most extensive land-information system on this continent has been developed by the Maritime Provinces of Canada (see Section 18.104.22.168); it provides a well-developed model for others to consider. Creation of a multipurpose cadastre requires input from many different sources at all levels of government. Existing governmental offices and private institutions will provide the fundamental components of the system. The land surveys required for the reference frame and the parcel boundaries will be performed by government and private surveys. The base maps will be pre- pared from several sources. The cadastral overlay (see Sections 2.4.3, 2.5.3, and 2.6.2) is the result of work by surveyors, abstractors, title attorneys, zon- ing organizations, and courts; this overlay presents the property parcels. There may also be related overlays that present one or more land records (Figures 1.1 and 3.1); these might more properly be called thematic maps, which are linked to the land records (Figure 3.1). The cadastral overlays, thematic maps, and land records represent the multipurpose cadastre. It is essential that technical standards and specifications be developed and en- forced for information that is entered in the multipurpose cadastre. Chapter 3 of this report describes the terms associated with the cadastral parcel and suggests specifications and methods for some of the technical operations re- quired for the development of a multipurpose cadastre. In order to relate other land information to the basic components, linkage mechanisms are required. Essential items in this integrating mechanism are standard definition of the parcel unit, a unique parcel identifier, approximate geographic location of the parcel, a parcel index map, a computerized index of parcels, and links with nonparcel data that are geographically related (see Section 3.4).
Executive Summary 3 Development of a multipurpose cadastre will require reorganization and quality control of existing governmental functions, rather than creation of new functions. Gradual, phased implementation is necessary because the legislative and budgetary processes of local, state, and federal governments tend to ad- dress short-term, readily identifiable problems rather than long-range im- provements (see Section 4.1). Federal, state, and local governments as well as private contractors have an important role in the development of a multipurpose cadastre. The basic con- trol surveys for the geodetic network should be done by the federal agencies, intermediate control monuments should be established by state agencies, and the close-spaced monuments should be set by local agencies (see Section 4.2.1). Small- and medium-scale mapping by federal agencies should be supplemented with state and regional maps by state agencies, and large-scale maps should be prepared by local agencies. The basic cadastral surveys of federal land should be performed by federal agencies, while state land should be surveyed by state agencies. Local property boundaries will be established by private sur- veyors (see Section 4.2.2). We recommend that federal legislation be prepared to authorize and fund a program to support the creation of a multipurpose cadastre in all parts of the Nation. We recommend that the Office of Management and Budget designate a lead agency for the multipurpose cadastre. In addition to their basic surveying and mapping functions, each level of government can make material contributions to the development and main- tenance of the multipurpose cadastre. Federal agencies should conduct tech- nical studies, recommend standards, offer financial support through coopera- tive programs and grants, and ensure that work performed by federal agencies is compatible with the multipurpose cadastre (see Sections 4.3.1 and 4.3.2). We recommend that technical studies continue to be sponsored by the federal government to identify consistent land information and display stan- dards for use among and within federal agencies and between federal and state governments. These studies should rely on the authority of state govern- ments to adopt the standards and organize the data collection, in cooperation with the federal government to ensure compatibility on a national basis, dele- gating these functions to local governments where appropriate. Each state must act, in cooperation with the federal government, as a coordinating organization by providing guidance to local governments through such mechanisms as model specifications, standards, regional control surveys and maps, and basic source files. A state office should serve as a focal point and clearinghouse for communications with federal agencies and other states (see Section 4.3.3). We recommend that each state authorize an Office of Land Information Systems, through legislation where necessary, to implement the multipurpose cadastre.
4 NEED FOR A MULTIPURPOSE CADASTRE Much of the work in developing and maintaining a multipurpose cadastre will occur at a local level. Coordination of local efforts should be handled by an Office of Land Information Systems, which would be responsible for the standardization of procedures, monitoring production and maintenance of base maps and cadastral overlays, and creation and maintenance of land- parcel registers (see Section 4.3.4). We recommend that each county government (or municipality where appropriate) create an Office of Land Information Systems in coordination with such offices as the recorder of deeds, county surveyor, assessor, planner, and county abstractor, if any. The content of land records is often considered more related to functions of local government than to those of the state or federal agencies. However, there is a rapidly increasing need by regions, states, and federal government for the land data that would be provided by a multipurpose cadastre. Most of the operations as to specific land parcels occur at the county or municipal level. In addition to the traditional record-keeping offices, the primary users of data about specific land parcels are the average citizen who is involved in a real estate transfer, zoning hearing, or construction of a building and the local government department or utility that is planning a transportation system, drainage system, or other municipal function (see Section 4.1.1). We recommend that local governments be the primary access point for local land information. There is considerable concern that the qualified personnel required to perform the functions inherent in a comprehensive land-information system will not be available at all levels of government and in the private sector. The panel believes that means must be found to develop the qualified personnel and to encourage and support university research and development activities and programs (see Section 4.3.7). Therefore: We recommend support by the federal government for the establishment of a center or centers of excellence in land-information science, for the pur- pose of providing a program that develops scholars and professionals. The cur- riculum should include direct experience with land-data-systems problems.