Zoning Information: ALTA Survey Table A Item 2021 Clarifications

Posted by Evolve December 20, 2021

Surveyor noting boundaries for an ALTA Survey

With the adoption of the 2021 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements, Optional Table A Items 6(a) and 6(b) have been modified slightly to clarify the ordering client's responsibilities in providing zoning information to the surveyor to report on the ALTA survey.

If a client wishes for the zoning information to be included on the survey, then Optional Table A Item 6(a) and/or 6(b) can be requested as a part of the scope.

ALTA Survey Table A Item 6(a)

Client is Responsible for Providing the Zoning Report

If 6(a) is included, it is important to note that the client has a further responsibility to provide the surveyor with a zoning report or zoning letter that would include:

  • Current zoning classification
  • Setback requirements
  • Height and floor space area restrictions
  • Parking requirements

In 2021, clarification has been added that zoning information can also be provided to the surveyor by the client’s representative. In a typical transaction, multiple parties are involved, and it is common for someone other than the ordering client to provide the surveyor with the needed information. It may be the title company, the lender, the seller, or a zoning report provider that directly supplies the information.

Zoning Information Must be Specific to the Surveyed Property

The 2021 requirements have clarified that the provided zoning information must be specific to the surveyed property. Previously, there have been occasions where the surveyor was provided with sections of zoning codes, maps and ordinances and then asked to provide the information applicable to the surveyed property.

Asking a surveyor to review zoning codes and requirements would require the surveyor to make legal interpretations regarding classifications, uses and ordinances, which is outside of their expertise. The provided zoning report or letter must now contain information specific to the property to be used by the surveyor to report exacting information in a notation on the survey plat or drawing stating the date and source of the information.

ALTA Survey Table A Item 6(b)

Addressing Building Setback Requirements

Similarly, if 6(b) is negotiated, the surveyor is again looking for the client or their representative to provide a zoning report or letter specific to the surveyed property. If the report or letter states the building setback requirements, the surveyor has the additional responsibility to graphically depict the building setback requirements on the survey plat or drawing.

Surveyor May Elect to Not Plot Setbacks

However, upon the surveyor's review of the provided information, they may elect NOT to plot the setbacks due to the ambiguity of a definition in the zoning report or letter or due to the configuration of the property. As an example, if the provided information states that the front setback line is 50 feet and the property is on a corner, the surveyor has no way of knowing what the zoning authority recognizes as the front of the property or if both sides fronting along the street are recognized as the front. If the surveyor makes assumptions and incorrectly shows a setback line, the surveyor has attempted to interpret the zoning law or code and could be liable.

Additional Table A Items to Determine Building Violations

When reviewing actual matters on the property, questions may arise as to whether the building is in violation of the zoning building height restriction or whether there are sufficient parking spaces.

To address this, additional ALTA Survey Table A Items need to be considered. These include:

The inclusion of these items will help determine whether the property complies with the applicable zoning requirements.

Transaction parties need to realize that the surveyor cannot make these compliance determinations themselves, as in doing so they would be offering an opinion about matters outside of their expertise. With the inclusion of these Table A Items, the surveyor has the responsibility to provide the needed information so that others can make these compliance determinations.

Surveyors are No Longer Responsible for Zoning Information

It is true that fifteen years ago, surveyors would research and report zoning information as a part of providing an ALTA survey. However, the complexities of definitions within present-day zoning requirements make it nearly impossible for a surveyor to interpret the legal intent and report the matters applicable to the surveyed property.

When the 2011 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements were adopted, it was made clear that the zoning information had to be provided to the surveyor if it was necessary to include it on the survey.

Transaction parties need to rely on the expertise of a zoning company such as NV5/Bock & Clark Zoning to gather and provide commercial zoning data. Whether you need a Standard Zoning Report or a custom report, we supply a high-quality product based on your specifications.