Saturday, August 21, 2010

Recent Land Planning & Development Class Activity...

As part of the ongoing land development simulation that I'm conducting for this year's Land Planning & Development course, I recently had each of the small groups identify the owner of the "Semester Parcel" and describe their method and source for that determination.

The teaching goal was to demonstrate that the first step in a proposed development is typically identifying the owner so that an offer can be made and so that research into that parcel can begin. 

On a more practical level, I wanted the students to start interacting with the different sources of property information that range from the probate office, tax assessor's office, planning office, and all of their various websites (where, these days, much of the information is available digitally).

I was pleased that all five of the groups successfully identified the owner (in this case, the City of Montgomery).  What I did find interesting though was that the source for this conclusion was different for several groups. 

While two groups actually reviewed the deed for the parcel (and, thus, discovered the owner), other groups found the correct information from other sources such as the recent property tax records.

This prompted an interesting discussion about how certain "official" records (such as the property tax record) may include information (such as the name of a property owner) but that record is actually not the best and most reliable source for the information.  It reminded somewhat of the old "best evidence" discussions from law school.

The learning point that came out was that, when seeking a specific piece of information, it is always best to identify that information from the official source for that information--rather than another source that may be "official" but not for that specific piece of information.  This is important because, if you rely on the wrong record and the information is wrong, then it is typically your fault. 

However, if you rely on the correct record, but the information is incorrect, you have better options for recourse.

So, if you want to obtain "official" information about the payment of property taxes--go to the property tax office.  But, if you want "official" information about current ownership--go to the register of deeds.

This is the type of learning point that simulation-based courses can really amplify through a real world interaction.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

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