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Questions and Answers about Performing Green Acres Surveys


The following questions arose during NJSPLS workshops on “Performing Surveys for Green Acres Approval” and in other communications with surveyors. While these are questions raised by land surveyors, the responses may also prove useful to local agencies, conservancies, and non–profits issuing contracts for survey services. Questions are organized into the following categories:

If you have further questions, please visit the Green Acres website at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/greenacres or contact Jim Gresavage, PLS, either by e–mail at Jim.Gresavage@dep.state.nj.us or by phone at 609–984–0496.



The Questions

General Program Questions

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Plans, Descriptions, and Other Deliverables
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Out in the Field Coordinates and NAD 1983
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Miscellaneous
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Question: How does a surveyor become qualified to do State Green Acres survey work?

Answer: The contract process for performing Green Acres State Land Acquisition surveys changed in 2009. Survey contractors now must first be generally pre–qualified with Treasury's Division of Property Management and Construction (DPMC) and then evaluated by Green Acres on a technical basis for the more specialized work associated with Green Acres' needs. Survey firms may find that DPMC pre–qualification allows them to secure awards from other agencies and organizations, and will be a prerequisite for future Green Acres State Land Acquisition survey service two–year contracts. A surveyor can become familiar with the requirements of Green Acres survey work by attending workshops, asking questions, and practicing locally on open space acquisition projects. Be sure to ask your clients when surveying open land if there is a possibility that the land will become subject to Green Acres restrictions. If so, follow the Green Acres requirements for your client even before they submit it to the program.

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Question: How do we get on a bidding list, or how do we find out about projects to bid on? Answer: For State projects, a three-year contract is awarded through the Bureau of Treasury. Three vendors for each of Green Acres' six regions are chosen through Quality Based Selection, and when projects in the regions become available, the pre-qualified vendors are notified by Green Acres so that they can submit their bids. Notices of upcoming RFPs are posted on home page of New Jersey's Department of Treasury, Division of Purchase and Property at http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/purchase/ Local government and non–profit acquisition managers secure surveying services individually, and Green Acres has no notice of these surveying opportunities until the work is submitted for review.

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Question: Is an Open Space survey the same as a Green Acres survey? If not, what is the difference? Answer: An Open Space survey is any survey of land that is to be used for open space, while a Green Acres survey is defined in scope by NJ Administrative Code NJAC 7:36 Green Acres Rules. The difference is primarily in the standards and specification that each conform to. Open Space surveys are undefined as to standards beyond those established by the State Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. Green Acres surveys are required when state or local government agency or a nonprofit organization seeks Green Acres funding to acquire open space. These surveys must comply with requirements beyond those established by the State Board, as defined in the previously cited Administrative Code.

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Question: Why won't Green Acres participate in the acquisition of an area of encroachments by an adjoining landowner? Answer: Because the area is not insurable by the title company and may be unmarketable. The adjoining owner may have developed unwritten rights over time that are contrary to the purpose of the Green Acres Program to acquire lands for outdoor recreation and open space. If the statutory requirements have been met, it is possible that the seller no longer owns the area of encroachment but rather it may be owned by the person owning the encroachment. Areas that are surrounded by fences to the exclusion of the public or occupied by structures owned by others are not useable for outdoor recreation or open space, the intended purpose. The encroachments must be removed or the areas cut out and excluded from Green Acres restrictions prior to the release of final funding.

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Question: What should the local unit do when an encroachment is found to exist on a parcel of land being acquired for open space? Answer: The Local Unit should contact the seller of the property and ask that they have the encroachment removed prior to closing or accepting Green Acres funding. As an alternative, Green Acres will agree to participate in a reduced lot area that excludes the encroachment. With this option, the final survey must show a “Green Acres Participation Limit Line” that delineates the area of Green Acres' funding participation. The line must show the exclusion of the encroachment area so that the Local Unit has the option of disposal of the encroachment or entering into a boundary line agreement at a later time, without the prior need for State House Commission Approval.

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Question: How do I find out if land has been funded by Green Acres? Answer: Check the open space database on Green Acres' website.

  • Launch the website at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/greenacres/ Click on the button at the left that reads “Search Open Space Database” Read the terms and conditions of use before clicking on “I agree” Enter the county and municipality; click “search”.
  • Results from the Recreation and Open Space Inventory (ROSI) will be organized by facility name rather than by block and lot. The column on the far right indicates whether Green Acres funds were utilized in the acquisition. If “Yes”, then we should have records in our files. If “No”, then go directly to the County or Municipality to look for records of surveys.
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Question: Does Green Acres (NJDEP) look for parcels to acquire? Answer: Green Acres does not solicit for land. Landowners seeking to sell interests in their lands may approach Green Acres, local governments, and non-profits, either in fee or as easement, at which point the property will be evaluated for its suitability for open space or water quality protection. Factors favoring acquisition may include proximity to other preserved lands, freedom from encroachments or hazardous substances, and ease of public access.

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Question: When acquiring lands for open space, the State should contact the county or municipal government to determine ultimate right–of–way, and permit the local government to acquire its right–of–way before the State restricts lands for open space. Answer: If capable of implementation, this suggestion would help to prevent future diversions of land use from open space to public road purposes. The problem is that the Program does not have the resources to implement it. There is no funding in Green Acres to acquire the land for purposes other than outdoor recreation and open space. There is not enough staff to pursue this activity. If a local government unit is aware that it controls under-sized rights–of–way, it is best for that local unit to actively pursue additional width dedication, particularly along those larger vacant parcels of land that are prime for preservation acquisition.

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Question: What is a DXF file and what is it on – floppy disk or CD or PDF file? Answer: A .DXF file is in “drawing exchange format”. DXF is one of the more common formats of drawings understood by drawing software. The media required is floppy disk or CD or compact CD.

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Question: Regarding OPRA requests from digital files (mapping), the law states that the public is entitled to all public records. My concern is that when released, digital files can be altered. Answer: Metadata should be incorporated into every digital file to document date, source, methodology, etc. Files altered are more easily detected when metadata exists. OPRA laws do not specify what file extensions must be released. Surveys are unlikely to be released at DWGs that are easily modified. It is likely that PDFs could be released.

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Question: If multiple Tax Lots are included on a single survey, why must the interior lines and individual areas of each lot be indicated on the survey plan and in the description? Answer: Each lot on a tax map represents a chain of title that may have its own unique title issues, covenants, restrictions, or easements that affects title, utility and use of the land. Lot lines commonly define the division between municipal master plan zoning district areas that affects utility and value. Municipal Tax Lots are the least common denominator when defining a parcel of land and is the basis of reporting land on the Green Acres' Recreation Open Space Inventory (ROSI). Tax Lot designations are no longer an inadequate means for describing land in New Jersey. All of these elements may affect the appraised value and utility of each lot. Area is the final consideration in the relative importance of conflicting elements when construing a deed. The Green Acres Program records open space parcels by the municipal tax block and lot number and records the area of each lot for these and other reasons. The State of New Jersey pays an in–lieu of tax to municipalities based upon the area of individual lots that may have a unique tax assessment for each lot. Through the Green Acres database that records individual lot areas, calculations and reports can be made relative to in–lieu of taxes and open space in New Jersey. Although title may merge through the assemblage of lots, the final program records and payments are based on the Tax Lots that appear on the survey plan so the area of each lot is a required element for both the survey and the metes and bounds description.

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Question: When you say to include passing calls in property descriptions, you mention to give a distance to all markers we pass over. Do you mean the line markers set by us every 250/300 feet also? Answer: Mentioning line markers can be very helpful when trying to find this property in the field. While calling for the plan does incorporate these markers on long lines by reference, specific mention in the description may be of use to the untrained when construing the deed.

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Question: Will Green Acres accept tax map widths on roads? What about recorded widths (road returns)? Answer: Yes, tax map widths are accepted. While road returns are among the best data to use, there are times that tax maps may be the only available information regarding a road's width. Green Acres requires that the plans be accurate under your seal. Utilize whatever information you believe is professionally responsible to rely upon.

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Question: In the Legend of Acquisition, how should we deduct the parcel between the existing right–of–way and the limit of Green Acres participation (relating to Master Plan or Ultimate rights–of–way)? Answer: For a Local or Nonprofit acquisition, the area is acquired but labeled “not subject to Green Acres restrictions” and the area is deducted from the amount financed with Green Acres funds. For a state acquisition, this situation likely will not exist. The state acquires everything to the center of the road right-of-way, subject to pre existing paramount rights of the public to use the current road right–of–way. For State acquisitions of fee simple interests, 100% of the tract will be acquired is acquired in fee (presuming that there are no subdivisions involved), including any areas within the right of way and ultimate right–of–way, so that no slivers of title are left over. However, areas within public rights–of–way, tidelands, and navigable waters or encumbered by encroachments must be reported, as these may affect the appraised values. For State acquisitions of easement interests, or for local and non–profit acquisitions that Green Acres will encumber by providing funding, the area within the Master Plan ultimate right–of–way can be labeled as “limit of Green Acres encumbrance” on the graphic plan. On the Legend of Acquisition, first list the gross area of the parcel, then add a line for each item to be subtracted from that gross area (such as areas within public rights–of–way, tidelands, navigable waters, or encroachments) to yield the net area of Green Acres encumbrance.

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Question: When preparing a survey directly for the State program, is it necessary to still show the “future right–of–way”? Answer: It is not necessary to show this line on surveys for land that the State of New Jersey is acquiring. Avoid the terms “future right–of–way” and “ultimate right–of–way” because in doing so, the survey map and description may be construed as offering a dedication to the new width. Instead, label this line on local and nonprofit surveys as a “limit of Green Acres restrictions” or similar language. No such note is required for State Land Acquisition surveys when the acquisition is in fee, because the State takes title to the entirety of whatever the owner has offered.

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Question: Can we make a preliminary submission of a few prints and descriptions? Answer: Preliminary plans submitted through the Green Acres Project Manager for your project can help to identify encroachments, partial acquisition areas, and special issues that may need clarifications. For firms unfamiliar with Green Acres specifications, first–time surveys can also be submitted. The program unfortunately does not have the resources to make a preliminary examination of each plan every time. Thus, if only a preliminary plan is submitted for review, closings may be delayed when documents (plans, descriptions, forms) are needed by a due date.

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Question: Can my survey be modified after receiving the title search? Answer: Project deliverables that have not yet been approved by Green Acres can be revised easily. Project deliverables that have already been approved with closings based upon those deliverables will have to have corrective deeds filed if the title search reveals that substantive changes are necessary.

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Question: Must the surveyor mark interior lot corners in a multiple lot survey to provide interior lot areas? Answer: No.

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Question: Does the surveyor actually survey the interior lines in a multiple lot survey just to obtain the area? Answer: Not necessarily. The surveyor can calculate the areas by using a metes and bounds description or for LOCAL or NONPROFIT SURVEYS ONLY, can sometimes use tax map areas in conjunction with surveyed area for reporting purposes. Contact the Green Acres Program Surveyor for more information.

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Question: Why does Green Acres require that an “area of encroachment” be monumented? It seems this would cause confusion to the public who may think that their property is different in size. Answer: Green Acres does not fund or encumber areas of encroachment. Green Acres restrictions require the land to be held in perpetuity for outdoor recreation and open space, but this is unenforceable against an adjoiner who does not respect his or her ownership limits. These unencumbered areas are therefore NOT considered to be public parkland. If the area is unencumbered for outdoor and open space by Green Acres, the land may be sold or transferred to the encroaching adjoiner to remedy the area so used, without the need for any diversion approvals by the State House Commission.

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Question: What about alternative markers, such as FEMO or Sand (plastic) that are less environmentally destructive? Answer: Currently available plastic markers do not take stamping well enough to be able to note the date set and the corner number, so presently only metal caps are permitted.

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Question: Regarding EIFP easements, why is there a requirement for setting concrete monuments on easement corners? The written EIFP/EIT requirements allow for iron pins as well as concrete monuments. Answer: Three sections of the Scope of Survey Services refer to the requirement for concrete markers on EIFP limit lines.

  • 2.2 Contract Specific definitions: “Environmental Infrastructure Funding Program (EIFP) - …. The area funded by this program is encumbered with a specific restrictive covenant that requires it be marked in the ground by concrete monuments and described in a separate metes and abounds description of easement.”
    3.4.6 Environmental Infrastructure Funding Program (EIFP) Surveys: “Limits of EIT restricted areas must be marked in the ground by concrete monuments.”
  • 3.5.2.10.1 Setting Corner Markers: “Concrete monuments must be set at the perimeter limits of EIFP areas.”

The specifications do allow for alternatives to setting concrete monuments:

  • 3.5.2.10.6: “…If original undisturbed corner markers are found within 1.5 feet of the record location, the corner is considered marked by a monument pursuant to the 'Map Filing Law'. A detail of the relation of the found mark to the calculated corner must be provided.… Do not replace corner markers that are found or markers considered Monuments under the 'Map Filing Law'.”
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Question: Do you assume that the coordinate for NAD 83 on grid is the POB? Answer: The Point of Beginning for a Green Acres survey must have coordinate values determined, and this value must be derived, not assumed. There are various means by which State Plane Coordinates can be determined.

  • Survey by traditional ground methods from geodetic control points. The Geodetic department within the Department of Transportation can assist you with this; New Jersey's federal advisor is Warren Payton, who can be reached in Trenton at (609) 530–5654 or by e–mail at Warren.Payton@noaa.gov. Utilize survey grade GPS if you have the equipment and expertise Subcontract to a GPS vendor. There are a number of surveyors within New Jersey who provide GPS services and can establish coordinates for your site..
  • Handheld GPS is not an acceptable method, as the present level of accuracy for traditional handheld GPS does not provide the accuracy required by Green Acres.
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Question: How do I get State Plane Coordinates for Point of Beginning? Answer: There are various means by which State Plane Coordinates can be determined for sites.

  • Survey by traditional ground methods from geodetic control points. The Geodetic department within the Department of Transportation can assist you with this; New Jersey's federal advisor is Warren Payton, who can be reached in Trenton at (609) 530–5654 or by e–mail at Warren.Payton@noaa.gov. Utilize survey grade GPS if you have the equipment and expertise Subcontract to a GPS vendor. There are a number of surveyors within New Jersey who provide GPS services and can establish coordinates for your site..
  • Handheld GPS is not an acceptable method, as the present level of accuracy for traditional handheld GPS does not provide the accuracy required by Green Acres.
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Question: If the distances are to be ground and the coordinates are grid in the event of map filing two of the coordinates will be incorrect. This will be very confusing. Shouldn't the distances be on the grid for consistency? Answer: Green Acres only requires one set of coordinates, while the map filing law requires three. The distances shown on Green Acres surveys are to be ground and the coordinates are to be grid. Distances must be ground for appraisal purposes, so that the surface area in acres to three decimal places is accurate. To eliminate confusion, your notes should explain that the distances are ground and the coordinates are grid. You can include a note regarding the conversion factor.

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Question: To what accuracy are the State Plane Coordinates specified? How should they or are they determined? Answer: The following sections of the current Scope of Surveying Services address these topics:

  • 3.3 Basis of Bearings
    The basis of bearings for all surveys performed under this contract will be the New Jersey Plane Coordinate System NAD 1983, unless the site-specific RFP or Notification of Engagement award specifies an alternate bearing system. NAD 1927 Datum may be projected/converted to NAD 1983 Datum using the Federal CORPCON software, or its substantial equivalent, to make this conversion. The grid factor shall be applied to the Northing and Easting values in US Survey Feet of the parcel's description point of beginning, but not to horizontal survey distances in US Survey Feet. The north arrow shown on the plan must indicate the Bearing Base or reference north.

    3.4 Types of Survey Activities That May Be Required by This Contract
    The following survey activities listed within this section may or may not be required for each site–specific engagement under this contract. Survey contractors are to verify for each site–specific engagement which, if any, of these activities are required before bidding on or proceeding with work. Surveys for local units and non–profit organizations similarly may or may not require any or all of the following activities within the scope of their contracts for survey services.

    3.4.1 Control Surveys – New Jersey State Plane Coordinate System NAD 83
    The Using Agency shall provide specific guidelines and specifications to the Contractor for any control/GPS surveys that may be requested, independent of Property Survey work in a site-specific engagement.

    Relative to Property Surveys, Control Survey work is required to obtain the basis of the bearing system or north reference. The Description Point of Beginning shall also include NJSPCS Grid coordinate values stated in US Survey feet, stated to two decimal places. All property surveys shall be described in this modified NJSPCS NAD 83 bearing system with all ground distances in US Survey feet stated to two decimal places. Published state and federal control monument location and control data are the preferred starting data for Control Surveys, and can be obtained from the New Jersey Department of Transportation, Geodetic Survey division. Prior land survey work prepared for NJDEP may also be used for starting data, however surveyor will be obligated to verify that bearing base and coordinate values are correct whenever published information is not used as the source and basis of the NJSPCS NAD 83 coordinate system. The data used and other requirements may be specifically waived or modified by the Using Agency. In all cases, the graphic north arrow on the plan must identify the bearing system and, when applicable, NJSPCS NAD 83 and adjustment basis. Additionally the plan must contain a factual note that explains how the bearing system for the Project Area was established and identifies the state or federal control stations used. If an alternate system is specified by the Using Agency, the filed map number or recording information of the deed used must be stated in a note and labeled on the north arrow.

    All requirements for positional accuracy shall meet or exceed the former Federal Standard for Third Order, Class I accuracy whether conventional surveying methods including traversing, triangulation or trilateration or modern surveying methods of using Global Positioning System GPS are used.

  • 3.4.2 Property Surveys
    Control survey work is also required to obtain the basis of bearings or north reference and beginning coordinate values which shall be NJSPCS NAD 83 for all property surveys, unless specifically waived or modified by the Using Agency at the time a site-specific engagement is requested.

    All requirements of accuracy and standards, whether conventional surveying methods of traversing, triangulation, trilateration, or Global Positioning System (GPS) methods are used, shall provide similar positional accuracy that would meet or exceed the former Federal Standard for Third Order, Class I accuracy'.

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Question: What determines the navigability of a watercourse? Answer: This determination is on a case by case basis, but generally, Green Acres recognizes rivers (and some very large streams) as navigable. This is, of course, in addition to tidal waters as identified on the Tidelands Claims Maps issued by the State.

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Question: How can Green Acres create a restriction on an existing blanket easement without the easement owner being notified? Answer: Green Acres restricts expansion of the exercise of easement rights when encumbering the land, subject to the existing easement. Blanket easements should be mentioned in the survey plan notes, even when the easement is not capable of being plotted. Generally a blanket easement is locked into place following construction of the facilities within the easement. Further new easements must be approved through the diversion process and State House Commission approvals. When no easement is found in the record for existing physical facilities, an easement is to be created to lock the use in place and prevent further expansion of encroachment onto the site.

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Last Updated: August 16, 2012