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Town Talk: Locating property lines

Why it is important to locate property lines?

Before performing any construction on your property, including building a fence, deck, gazebo, shed, garage or an addition to your house, it is necessary to establish where your lot lines are located. This provides evidence the building inspector needs to verify that a project is within the setback required by both zoning laws and building codes. Building inside setback areas or over wrongly assumed property lines may result in moving or dismantling your project. This can be costly and time consuming. If you don’t know the location of the property line, you can investigate by using one or more of the methods described below. The City of New Ulm does not provide the service of locating property lines.

Property lines often are casually delineated by where you and your neighbors mow lawns, plant flower beds or maintain fences. These borders may not be the property lines. Even if your neighbor agrees that this is the property line, problems can arise when either property is sold, or property lines are found not to be where they had been assumed to be located. Do not assume that utility poles or boxes mark property line locations or that the sidewalk edge is the property line. Also, street curbs are almost never located at the property line.

How to locate property lines.

The first step in finding your property lines is to determine the dimensions of your lot. You may be able to obtain this information from your deed or a plat map obtainable from the City Engineering Department or Brown County Recorder. If you are able to obtain a combination of this information, you can measure from the roadway curbs to find the property line. Use caution when using this method as this is assumed information that the roadway was constructed exactly centered within the platted City right-of-way.

The next step is to locate the survey pins, if they exist. Often these are located at the corners of your lot and at the beginning of a curve if the property line curves. Ask your neighbors if they have recently located the survey pins for their properties. This could save you the trouble of having to find them yourself. If no one knows where the pins are, you may wish to use a shovel to probe the area of the ground where they are assumed to be located. They can be a foot or more below grade. If that proves fruitless, you may need to use a metal detector or magnetic locator to help find them.

Many lots in New Ulm were surveyed many years ago and survey pins may have been removed. If this is the case, property lines may be located by measuring from the opposite pins on neighboring properties if you are allowed to locate them or other pins on the block where the locations are known. Once you locate a survey pin, do not disturb its location. Any person who willfully removes, destroys, or defaces a monument lawfully erected is guilty of a misdemeanor.

When Professional surveys are necessary.

If property lines cannot be determined by using these methods, you will need to hire a professional to survey your lot and put in new pins. You will be responsible for the cost of a new survey.

“CALL BEFORE YOU DIG” Minnesota law requires that any excavator call the state-wide notification center at least 48 hours (excluding weekends, holidays and emergencies) prior to the start of digging. Contact Gopher State One-Call at 651-454-0002 or you may dial 811 from your cell phone.

Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to comments@ci.new-ulm.mn.us.

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