My small town surveying
In another post, pleasantries of surveying in small town America were mentioned. My home town has a population of a bit over 4,000. The whole county only has 20,000. Until the last 7 or 8 years, we didn’t have a Planning and Zoning board/department. In the city, there were a few rules to follow but they were simple and the fire chief was also the zoning guy. He was just somebody’s Grandpa that just happened to be fire chief/zoning guy and was very cool to deal with. He always held firm when he thought he was right and he was right every time I ever had a chance to question him. Except for once. A client kept getting denied when applying for a building permit to build an automotive shop. Zoning guy said he was in a residential zone. Every map of zoning areas I could find showed the client clearly in the business zone. This went on for weeks. Letters, phone calls. Then the denial letter again. I didn’t understand. Chief Poole had been a friend of my Dad’s and they had a good working relationship when Dad was still surveying. I think Chief Poole still wasn’t too sure if I had learned all Dad tried to teach me. He was nice enough on the phone when we talked. Finally I just came out and asked him if we could meet informally to compare notes and zoning maps. He was ok with that and sounded a bit relieved to meet without others listening in. I met him at his office in the fire department. I remember the small talk and memories of Dad we shared. Then came to the business end of it. I had butterflies in my stomach knowing I was about to question his decision. The official zoning map was just a reduced, color map with tax parcel lines and street names. Each zone was a different color and the mostly followed tax parcel lines. I saw my client’s parcel right there in the business zone where I’d been saying it was. I pointed to it asked if that was the right parcel. He said “I don’t look at parcel line to determine which zone. Property gets subdivided so parcel lines change. I use the bold zoning line which may or may not follow parcel lines.” I still didn’t follow his explanation until he pulled the scale out and scaled the intersection tie distance from my plat on the zoning map. He made a pencil mark where his distance put my client in a residential zone. I wondered if I possibly could have busted the tie or made a typo. I said “Chief Poole, may I try for myself on your map?” He stepped back with a reassuring hand on my back as he towered over me, watching. If I remember correctly, he pointed to the stated scale of 1″=100′. I spotted the bar scale elsewhere on the map and remembered that I thought the map looked reduced. I placed the engineers scale on the bar scale and it was obvious. Chief Poole realized it a second after I did. “Stacy, I’m sorry. I’m just a fire chief that inherited the zoning hat from the previous chief. I’m not good with maps other than general road maps. YOU are the map reader.” He called his second in command into the office and proclaimed he’d made a mistake. The three of us enjoyed a laugh and a cup of coffee. I don’t think I ever told anyone the particulars, just that he got tired of all the permit applications and let us by so we would shut up. Chief Poole put more faith in me after that. He corrected my oversight a few times but I never caught another mistake of his. That was surveying in small town America. Now there are zoning boards, planning commissions, zoning boards of adjustment, etc. R.I.P. Chief Niles Poole. You were a man of integrity.
Log in to reply.