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G l W a n d R e c o r d s

TheArcGIS* Parcel Data M o d e l

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ESRI PRESS
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Copyright K 2004 ESRI
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Von Meyer, Nancy, 1954-
GIS and land records : Ihe ArcGIS parcel data model / Nancy von Meyer.
p. cm.
includes bibliographical references |p. |.
ISBN 1-58948 077 5 (pbk. : alk. paper!
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A c k n o w l e d g m e n t s

I wish to acknowledge the generous collaboration and support of the cadastral community in building,
testing, and implementing the ESRI ArcGIS' parcel data model. In particular, I wish to thank the
Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) Subcommittee on Cadastral Data who collectively and
collaboratively developed the Cadastral Data Content Standard, which is the heart of the ArcGIS
parcel model. The subcommittee's efforts represent the best in class of what can be done to develop
national standards. Thanks to Gary Speight, Bob Ader, and Don Buhler who provide and sustain the
vision of standards through partnerships.
At ESRI, Steve Grise, Clint Brown, and Scott Morehouse made the first versions of the ArcGIS
parcel data model possible. Their goals for a cadastral template for the ArcGIS community started
this effort. Wayne Hewitt was instrumental in testing the model and assuring that it worked with the
ArcGIS tools. Wayne and Steve sponsored the ESRI User Conference presentations, where we received
a lot of feedback on the model's progress and had some good times along the way. Mike Zeiler
provided special graphics and asked fundamental questions.
Thanks to the people who reviewed drafts and provided comments and input on the data model
and supporting requirements. I know that their organizations have made time for them to participate
and contribute, and I am grateful for their efforts, knowledge, and input:

Dean Anderson, Cathy Appleton, Rick Breckenridge, Tom Bushey, Anita Campbell,
Adam Chadwick, David Claypool, Richard Clement, Randy Covington, Peter Croswell,
Diann Danielsen, Stuart Davis, Richard Dickman, Teresa Di Gioia, Neil Duxbury, Bob
Earle, Shoreh Elhami, Fran Evanisko, Bill Ferguson, Roberto A. Figueroa, Gina Funicelli,
Arvind Ganesan, Bob Gaspirc, Susan Higashi, David Horwood, Barb Kett, Roy King.
Stewart Kirkpatrick, Mike Koutnik, Jay Krafthefer, ]im LeMieux, Zsolt Nagy, David E.
O'Hara, Anne Payne, Ginny Pyles. Milo Robinson, Luke Savage, Roxanne Scott, Brad Stump.
Kathleen Swingle, Greg Tudor, Paul H. Vastag, and Gary Waters.
vi / GIS and Land Records: The ArcGIS Parcel Data Model

I am thankful for the reviews and support of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) cadastral
community. Marc Thomas, Bob Deviney, Brent Blair, and Byron Clayton answered unending ques-
tions about federal land records. Dennis McKay and Paul Lukacovic reviewed survey and measure-
ment topics many, many times. Dennis Walworth and Linda Ricketts reviewed and commented on
each cycle of the model—thanks for the modeling skills and reality checks.
The counties discussed in this book are so special and are the key to making our national cadas-
tral infrastructure a reality. A special thanks to Scott Oppmann of Oakland County, Michigan—his
friendship, reviews, testing, and contribution were a constant throughout the model development and
the book. Don Dittmar, Jim Landwehr, and Bill Cozzens in Waukesha County, Wisconsin, validated
the model and provided great stories. The Sandsnes men, Carl and Arden (Sandy), shared their deep
understanding of land title and measurement with me repeatedly.
My working pals at Headwater Resources Norm Bushor and Chris Lucas support our many and
ongoing ArcGIS projects and continually validate and improve upon the implementation and integra-
tion of standard, documented GIS information.
A special thanks to my husband Bill who provides humor, support, and the perspective of life
beyond work.
Claudia Naber at ESRI Press taught me how to write in real English, not technical speak. Any
remaining errors in that regard in this book are mine, not hers.
It has been a privilege for me to work with so many good people in the cadastral community.
I hope you enjoy this book and benefit from its content.
F o r e w o r d

More and more we are rinding that land records and cadastral information represent one of the most
strategic layers in GIS today. Here is just one example. In September 2003 before Hurricane Isabel
made landfall in North Carolina, counties in the projected path of the storm were inundated with
calls for information about parcel elevation. Knowing the elevation would help homeowners plan
adequately for storm surge. After the devastating storm, among otherfindings,it was discovered that
standard parcel data sets needed to be available off-site and structured so they can be readily inte-
grated with other published data sets such as those in a national map pilot project. The absence of
standards made integrating information from multiple counties and states very difficult while the hur-
ricane was raging. These and other examples tell us simply that parcel information is important.
Traditionally, mapping and land-records work has involved compiling data for focused use, such
as for assessing taxes. Those who capture and maintain that data applied due diligence to make sure
that the information content and methods were consistent and this approach worked excellently for
that focused use. However, for quite some time, many have longed for a comprehensive cadastral
information model that can be applied to more purposes. Data consumers have wanted data in a
format they could understand so they could put it to work.
The status quo in GIS is changing to enable the development and maintenance of land records
information that supports multiple purposes and enables tighter integration with survey information.
ESRI is committed to evolving its tools to support these capabilities.
Two criteria necessary for building multi-purpose, integrated land records systems are
(1) common data models or content standards and (2) methods and best practices. This book explores
the common model for parcel information that can lead to development of shared best practices.
viii / GIS and Land Records: The ArcGIS Parcel Data Model

For several years, some key individuals have taken on the task of defining the information
models. These people and others have worked to evolve best practices and methods for developing
parcel information layers for intelligent use in a GIS. Nancy von Meyer's book captures the critical
thinking on information models for land records and, most importantly, ties these to a series of best
practices for the land-records community.
The topics in this book are comprehensive and cover many of the key aspects that have chal-
lenged land-records practitioners for years. One of the successes of this book is that it's not just about
theory, but about practices that build on the theory and that have been tested in real-world implemen-
tations. This book is intended to help users build practical working land-records systems and is an
important step in moving the cadastral community forward in its work.
This book is also important for another reason. It moves the interoperability discussion going
on in the GIS community to a place where we can openly discuss information content and use these
efforts to define practical, richer information models and methods for building working systems.
Already much progress has been made on the technical foundations and concepts for GIS interoper-
ability. Internet protocols have been high on everyone's agenda and continue to receive massive atten-
tion and focus. However, the information content and use of strategic data layers has not received the
attention.
We need debate about the methods used to collect and maintain strategic information. We need
to openly discuss the technical merits and practicality of various approaches. What good is an open
protocol if the information content is inconsistent, incorrect, or not available? This book will encour-
age a much richer technical debate about the sensitive issues we face in building distributed, interop-
erable, practical geographic information systems for land records.
• Clint Brown, ESRI
Redlands, California
March 2004
C o n t e n t s

Acknowledgments v
Foreword vii

CHAPTER I Parcel information and GIS i


CHAPTER 2 Two information environments: production and publication 15
CHAPTER 3 Themes of the ArcGIS parcel data model 25
CHAPTER 4 Corners and boundaries 31
CHAPTER 5 Parcel frameworks 41
CHAPTER 6 Tax parcels 53
CHAPTER 7 Rights and interests 61
CHAPTER 8 Administrative areas 77
CHAPTER 9 Parcel-related uses 83
CHAPTER 10 Historical and archived parcels 95
CHAPTER II Closing thoughts 101

Appendix A Legal descriptions 105


Appendix B Implementing the ArcGIS parcel data model
Appendix C Data relationships 151

References 167