Letters to the Editor


Dear Ms. Cox:

I am an inveterate reader of your magazine and would like to compliment you and your staff on its consistent high quality. I particularly look forward to reading the columns and occasional guest editorials by Stephen Estopinal, PE, PLS. 

I would also compliment your decision to include from time to time articles dealing with topics related to surveying such as land subdivision design. Keep up the good work.

Kurt W. Bauer, PE, RLS, AICP
County surveyor, WI

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Welcome, Dave Doyle


I’m very pleased to see that you have added Dave Doyle to your editorial board. He is one of my very old friends and a very brilliant mind (don’t tell him that I said that!). We both had our roots in topographic surveying in the Army. I was in Germany shortly after he was, after being an instructor at Fort Belvoir.

Steve Briggs, PSM
Past President, AAGS
Deerfield Beach, FL

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Our August issue cover image was 
photographed by Mike Tibbit.

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We received numerous emails regarding this guest editorial from the August issue.  Below is one, but several others appear on our website’s forum.  If you have a comment or question, please join in the discussion there.

This letter is from Allen Nobles, who has been an active member of FSMS for more than 30 years. He owns and operates a survey business and is a certified educator. His wife, Pam Nobles, who is quoted in this guest editorial, also owns her own aerial mapping company.  She is a member of the Florida Board of Professional Surveyors and Mappers.

Dear Editor,

I was at the same meeting of the Florida Board of Professional Surveyors and Mappers that Mr. J. Allison Butler covered in your August issue and found it very interesting to read his view of what happened that day. This has been going on for years, and I feel Mr. Butler was looking for one more forum to air out his views.  I would like to offer my personal view of the events at the same meeting and add some of the details that he failed to state in his editorial.

In my view, the real problem that I see was that Mr. Butler was asking for a clear line on what was GIS mapping and what was surveying. I know this makes for a good article, but I am not sure if any group could draw a clear line on that issue and certainly not with the case that he chose to use. The forum that Mr. Butler chose was not the place to address this because a declaratory statement is not an appropriate means for obtaining a statement of general applicability from a board or an agency and it would be only for this single case. The fact is ASPRS has a guideline for the procurement of the same services that addresses most of Mr. Butler’s questions.  I know that the survey groups that I have talked to also think it is a very good guideline.  

I hope I don’t bore you with the details, but first you need to understand what Mr. Butler was asking for. In the last ten years that I have been attending the Florida Board of Professional Surveyors and Mappers meetings, I think I have seen only one or two requests for declaratory statements that the board has replied to. A Request for Declaratory Statement to the Florida Board of Professional Surveyors and Mappers is a very formal, quasi-judicial proceeding heard in front of the entire board. When a request is heard, one of the first things they determine is whether or not the petitioner has standing to request a statement from the board. To have standing, the petitioner has to prove that he or she has been harmed in some way. A petition may be used to resolve only questions or doubts that apply to the petitioner’s particular circumstances. The board had two Declaratory Statements that day, and the board did ask many questions of both Mr. Butler and the petitioner from the other case to address these items, and, depending on their reply, it opened a new line of other questions. The board discussed Mr. Butler’s petition in length, asking about his work, his job with the City of Ocoee, his private practice work, his background, and his certifications to understand his case. 

Since you received Mr. Butler’s general views of the meeting, I think I need to provide more details on the single case that was in Mr. Butler’s petition that day and the only case the board ruled on. Again this was for a single case and not a ruling of what the line is for all of surveying, mapping, or GIS. Florida is one of several states that currently recognizes aerial mapping as part of the surveying practice and includes this practice in their definition of surveying and mapping. The practice of photogrammetry is then performed by professionals who have garnered the knowledge and skills to practice in that particular area of expertise. 

The request for proposals that precipitated Mr. Butler’s petition, in part, called for the following deliverables:

a.    100K LiDAR survey of the Ocoee Joint Planning Area
b    6-inch pixel color orthophotography
c.    Digital terrain model with breaklines
d.    1-foot contour features in geodatabase and AutoCAD formats
e.    2-foot contour features in geodatabase and AutoCAD formats
f.    Separate LAS point cloud datasets for first return and bald earth
g.    FEMA ground truth cross-sections
h.    Ground control

In his petition Mr. Butler also states the following:

“There is no explicit reference in the relevant Florida Statutes or Florida Administrative Code regarding the use of GPS, LiDAR, or GIS technologies, devices, and methods as falling within the scope of the practice of surveying and mapping.”

Florida Statute Chapter 472 defines the practice of surveying and mapping, and it was clear that this RFP was part of the practice of surveying (http://www.800helpfla.com/psm/pdfs/

While Mr. Butler laments the statute’s silence on the use of different technology to perform the professional practice of surveying and mapping, the statute is purposefully silent on the use of specific equipment and defines the activity being performed.

After quite a long discussion with Mr. Butler, the board put forth, and passed, a motion to deny his petition, as the statute was clear about the definition of surveying and mapping. This was the only motion passed by the board and was based on the details of this case only. 

In general, the Florida Board does not give advice, nor do they give direction in an informal matter to persons who appear before the board, so this was not the forum to address any issue that Mr. Butler may have had. During the discussion with Mr. Butler, he talked about a number of other cases or examples that all have some unique details to them, but they were not part of this ruling. The only determination that the board made was that the statute was clear on the single issue provided.

Shooting the messenger?  I don’t think so. I can see where Mr. Butler feels like he got shot down, but this was not the place or the case to use to prove a point that has been addressed by many others. Mr. Butler even states in his article that the clearest answer he got was when a board member basically read him the Florida definition of surveying from the practice act. In fact, I think most surveyors, mappers, and the GIS industry are working better together now than ever because of groups like ASPRS, MAPPS, NSPS and many others, the common ground we have, and the need for each other’s services. 

Let’s go back to work now.

Allen Nobles, PSM
Tallahassee, FL


Thanks for forwarding the letter from Mr. Nobles.  Due to limited space for publication, I had to restrict the amount of details I offered in my article.  His letter provides additional information.  I might disagree with only one portion of his letter.  

His letter notably states, “Florida Statute Chapter 472 defines the practice of surveying and mapping, and it was clear that this RFP was part of the practice of surveying (http://www.800helpfla.com/psm/pdfs/Chapter472.pdf).”  My petition was actually prompted by the absence of clarity in the referenced statute, with the RFP serving as a way of illustrating the ambiguity.  

For example, the statute references the making of “certifiable measurement through accepted photogrammetric procedures” and the use of “photogrammetric control” as being part of licensed surveying and mapping.  Two licensed attorneys with extensive experience said only narrow portions of the RFP required the services of a licensed surveyor and mapper, and those requirements were clearly stated.  FSMS disagreed.  I asked the board this question and other related questions regarding similar work.  I pointed out that photogrammetric control was not defined in Florida Statutes and generally had a more restrictive definition than was being applied by FSMS.

Although even this narrow question was not formally answered in the opinion, the board appeared to interpret all photogrammetric procedures as involving photogrammetric control and relied on the absence of any provision in the statute for mapping to be done without certifiable measurements.  Ms. Nobles made this point herself.  Yet, several governmental agencies use photogrammetry and other “surveying-only” methods to do the public’s work without having the licenses that the board appears to require.  The absence of any consequences for such unlicensed practice strongly suggests that it is outside the scope of Chapter 472—a conclusion directly at odds with what I was being told by FSMS and the board. 

What would be most useful now is for Mr. Nobles or someone else to tell me how I can get the answers I and other unlicensed persons seek.  My article proposes one possible solution.

Al Butler

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