SAN MIGUEL COUNTY – San Miguel County has a new policy in place for those looking to update mapping on the county’s Geographic Information Systems database, and it comes thanks to the Gold Hill Development Company.
That’s because a survey commissioned by the GHDC indicates that the Modena, Gertrude and Little Bessie Lodes in Upper Bear Creek it purchased last March are contiguous parcels, while the county’s mapping database shows gaps between them. The GHDC counts among its partners developer Tom Chapman, whose reputation for acquiring privately owned “inholdings” surrounded by federal lands in order to facilitate lucrative land trades precedes him.
“Chapman’s group approached me and wanted [GIS Coordinator] Heather [Widlund] and I to change the GIS mapping to show the claims more accurately according to his survey,” County Surveyor Dave Foley told the Board of County Commissioners at a meeting earlier this month.
The challenge for Foley, however, was that the request was the first of its kind he had encountered, and the county actually had no mechanism in place with which to deal with it.
“We didn’t know what to do when someone says, ‘Hey, I’ve got a boundary survey, why don’t you use it to change the GIS,’” he explained. “It had never been done until Chapman approached us.”
As a result, the BOCC directed Foley to create a new policy, which went into effect in late December. It provides a means for county residents, non-resident county property owners and governmental entities to request boundary line mapping revisions in which they have an ownership interest, as long as the request is be based on the results of a recent, certified land survey.
Although shortly after purchasing the claims the GHDC announced its intent to exclude people from its private property – and by doing so public access to parts of popular backcountry ski and hiking routes – the unconnected parcels depicted by the county system have fueled speculation that there are ways around the claims that would enable backcountry users to continue their use.
That sort of mapping discrepancy can happen, Foley said, because the county has two separate sets of plats among its records.
One set, on file at the County Clerk and Recorder’s office, contains changes that affect the shape of real estate and contain a grantor and grantee.
Plats on file in the county surveyor’s office are boundary surveys created after a surveyor has set the corner markers of a property.
“It’s just a record of what markers were set,” he explained.
“Currently the GIS mapping system only looks a the clerk’s map because that’s where real estate is changed and that means the county assessor might assess the property value differently,” Foley said.
He added that in his opinion most plats on file with his office would have no effect on the GIS mapping were the two plats reconciled against each other.
The GHDC request was an attempt to set the record straight.
“Some of the skiers believe that there is a gap in between the mining claims that might allow them to ski between the parcels,” said GDHC attorney Aaron Clay.
“Our surveyor says there is no gap.”
Both the County and The U.S. Forest Service agree.
“Those claims are contiguous and there are not gaps across them,” Foley confirmed.
“Those three claims that the Gold Hill Development Company purchased are definitely touching, they are immediately adjacent to one another,” said Norwood District Ranger Judy Schutza.
“There is no doubt about it, they have been surveyed. Our surveyor has reviewed the plats and they are unquestionably touching.”