Surveyor General’s Report: ABCLS Town Hall Meetings, October 2023
The following is an update on Land Title and Survey Authority of BC (LTSA) operational items and projects, originally provided to land surveyors at the Association of BC Land Surveyors (ABCLS) Town Hall meetings held across BC from September 18 to October 5, 2023.
LTSA continued to see lower land title transaction volumes in the first quarter of this fiscal year. While volumes are about 15% lower than last year and the year before, these volumes are similar to what we experienced prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re in the midst of a real property market in transition, and don’t know where it’s going to settle. We’re on track financially this year, but given the uncertainty, LTSA is being very diligent about discretionary spending.
The number of land title plans received are down by about 7.5% year over year so far in this fiscal year.
LTSA’s business plan was published in April and strategic priorities remain the same for this fiscal year. The strategy includes continually focusing on improving operational excellence; developing innovative solutions in the public interest; reinvesting and strengthening core systems; and continual investment in people and capabilities. The primary projects that we are investing in are Application Platform Modernization, Survey Plan Services Modernization, and a Records Plan.
We’ve recently completed customer consultation for the Records initiative to help us understand current customer requirements and any issues or gaps. This is to assist us in preparing a 3 year Records Plan. The plan will focus on how we prioritize spending in relation to Vault Records, with recommendations around: digitization, prioritization, processes and systems considerations.
Surveyor General Operations and Policy
For Surveyor General plan submissions, plan volumes remain low compared to historic volumes, primarily due to sustained reduction in oil and gas related plans. Volumes have remained steady for statutory applications.
Where we are seeing additional volumes is in the support our operations team is providing to the Province for various First Nation agreements. This survey support will continue to increase as the Province makes gains on implementing agreements.
For the Alberta-BC Boundary Commission, we currently have two surveys underway.
- A restoration survey of 10 monuments at Miette Pass, northwest of Jasper; and
- An inspection survey of 5 monuments at Tent Mountain Ridge, southeast of Sparwood.
In June, we announced that the use of s.9(1) of the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing Act for the establishment of roads across untitled creeks was being discontinued. All applications to establish road over untitled Crown land must be made to FrontCounter BC, unless your client is the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI). If the road is required to access private land being subdivided, an application under s.80 of the Land Act is suitable both inside and outside municipalities. Where a road is not related to a subdivision, a road application must be approved by Ministry of Forests and then specific survey instructions obtained from the Surveyor General.
For Section 58 Land Act applications, we now have established procedures in place for consultation with affected First Nations. Remember that you now need to specify if the application is seeking to confirm existing ownership or seeking a transfer of ownership of Crown land. First Nation consultation is required if there is a transfer of ownership.
We’ve communicated recently that there are upgrades being made to myLTSA to enhance security measures. Later this fall, customers with cached or stored passwords will be directed to re-enter their password to access their myLTSA account.. If you use auto-complete for your username and password you will want to ensure you know your login credentials.
The current year to date turn-around time continues to be less than 1 day.
We continue to increase adoption by local government, including recently adding a number of local governments on Vancouver Island as well as the City of Kelowna.
The team has a number of projects underway:
The most significant project is the migration of the underlying platform from ArcMap to ArcGIS Pro. This major software and infrastructure upgrade is to the ‘back end’ of the system and will enable us to do more in the future and modernize our ecosystem. This will allow us to explore other land data capabilities.
The PMBC techs are supporting the creation of new revised workflows for ArcGIS Pro, this will have an impact on turn-around times for datasets. We can expect that turn-around times will creep a little closer to the 2 day target turn-around in the short-term. In addition, we are decreasing the number of spatial improvements undertaken at this time. We have now spatially improved about 10% of BC and have dealt with a lot of problem areas. Our focus was on areas where we knew that the compilation data was poor and we had enough data to improve the fabric. At this point we are targeting areas based on feedback from local governments, particularly those that are looking at adopting PMBC but have concerns within their jurisdiction.
The team is continuing to work with MOTI on capturing data from highways plans. In addition, they’ve been working with GeoBC to better align municipal administrative boundaries.
The last PMBC item I will mention is a collaborative effort between land titles and the PMBC team to improve the accuracy of ALR legal notations on titles. At this point over 40,000 legal notations have been added to titles and over 26,000 have been removed.
Significant progress has been made on SurveyHub since it was demoed at the LTSA booth at the ABCLS AGM earlier this year; we now have more plan types and features completed. The current iteration includes the ability to prepare well site plans, posting plans and various reference and explanatory plans.
We are in the process of conducting a pilot with a small group of land surveyors, who recently attended a training workshop. These participants will use the system to prepare plans for final submission to the Surveyor General or Land Title Office. This is the first time end-to-end workflows will run through to submission in production.
Over the next few months, with assistance and feedback from our pilot group, more plan types will be added and SurveyHub will be refined in preparation for general availability. When released, SurveyHub will initially exist in parallel with the existing submission process. To facilitate a seamless transition to SurveyHub, there will be customer training webinars, and support material available. I would encourage land surveyors to start using SurveyHub early, once it’s available.
Air Space Parcels
One of the areas of focus in my Vision, which was presented to land surveyors this spring, is on the rise of high value tenures defined in 3-dimensions, such as air space parcels. These developments are becoming more and more complex and our current framework is not keeping up with these changes. It can be very challenging to understand the location of air space boundaries and I believe there is opportunity to improve how these tenure areas and volumetric interests are depicted and I will be looking for insight from surveyors that work on air space developments for their observations and ideas.
I’m engaging with the ABCLS Strata Property and Air Space Committee this fall in order to hear some of the air space challenges they’ve observed. I hope to build on work already completed on this subject and make recommendations for changes to policy, practice and legislation in order to address concerns with air space developments, focusing on survey plans.
In addition, we have recently completed a jurisdictional scan to investigate work underway internationally to represent volumetric parcels in mapping systems. There are a number of initiatives underway, but not a lot that have been developed and in production. We are doing some exploratory work to look at the potential of representing volumetric parcels and interests in the PMBC fabric or as an extension from PMBC. My primary focus is on finding ways to improve the ability for the public to understand the extents of these complex volumetric tenures.
Datum Modernization Project
The LTSA continues to support the datum modernization project, led by GeoBC, to obtain GNSS data on targeted MASCOT monuments throughout BC, focusing on select ISAs and highways, to derive accurate CGVD2013 heights. The work on this project will support both the upcoming vertical and horizontal adjustments.
The Vancouver Island portion of the project is complete. Reconnaissance work for 2 zones in southern BC was completed early this summer and GeoBC has now engaged land surveyors to survey the physical benchmarks within those areas.
Post-Quake Boundary Restoration
The Surveyor General team has developed draft guidance related to re-establishing boundaries following a significant earthquake, based on boundaries-moved principles. This envisions that survey evidence and occupation may move in both an absolute and relative position and boundary dimensions after an earthquake may be different than before. We are continuing, with consultation, to improve our plan and will be seeking feedback from a selection of municipalities this fall.
In mid-September, I met with a group of land surveyors from across the province who operate in the vicinity of properties damaged by wildfires, and those that have experience surveying after wildfires. We discussed the damage in different areas and challenges that may be present.
Information is now posted on LTSA’s website for landowners and local governments to stress the importance of legal surveys in recovery efforts, from protecting survey evidence during clean-up activities to having land surveyors re-establish boundaries before re-building to avoid issues at a later date.
We are working with GeoBC to obtain more information about the extent of property damage and GeoBC is in the process of obtaining drone imagery in West Kelowna.
I would like to stress the importance of considering worker safety when conducting surveys after wildfires. I understand that WorkSafe BC is developing new content on this subject. It seems that much of their current content is currently focused on the risk of wildfires and wildfire smoke but they do have an advisory relating to the health risks from wood ash and hopefully they will have more information soon. One of the surveyors at the September meeting shared a video from the CSRD that talks about some risks after wildfires, including information about dangerous trees and ash pits.
In closing, I wish to express my gratitude to land surveyors across BC for their engagement and for continuing to provide important input into LTSA’s projects and services.