There are five terms related to site measuring and drawing a base map that are used in the design professions: (1) lot, (2) plot plan, (3) site plan, (4) base map, and (5) base sheet. Each of these is a common expression used to define and/or graphically repre­sent a residential site (Figure 6—1). As can be seen, these terms are similar to each other and thus easily confused. Nevertheless, each is unique with its own particular purpose and set of information.


A lot, sometimes referred to as a parcel, is the area of ground on which a single-family residence is located (Figure 6—2). This is sometimes called a plat or plot. To avoid con­fusion with a subdivision map (often called a plat) or a scheme or secret plan (often called a plot), a residential property should be referred to as a lot.

Lots range in configuration, although most residential lots are rectangular in shape with their width usually being shorter than their depth or distance from the

Base Map

Figure 6-1

Comparison of drawing terms.

street (Figure 6—3). Corner lots tend to be more equal in proportion, whereas lots located at the end of a cul-de-sac or along a road curve can be pie – or wedge-shaped. Lots located in areas of irregular topography, along a water edge, or near other un­usual natural features may be more irregular in configuration.

Lots occur in a variety of sizes, too. Although there are no standard lot sizes, a designer is apt to encounter a range of typical sizes. These are listed next and shown in Figure 6—4 in relation to the size of one acre of land, which is 43,560 square feet, approximately 208′ X 208′.

1/8 of an acre 1/4 of an acre 1/2 of an acre 1 acre or greater

A lot is bounded by property lines, which are invisible lines defining the sides or edges of a lot. Each property line is identified by a bearing and a distance (Figure 6—5). A bearing is the horizontal direction of a property line expressed in degrees east or west of true north or south. A distance is the horizontal linear measurement of the property line. Iron pins or other permanent markers embedded in the ground typi­cally identify the corners of a lot.

Plot Plan

A plot plan is a scaled drawing that accurately shows the lot’s configuration, legal boundaries, and existing structures (Figure 6—6). Many times a plot plan is created by

N90°E 117.5′

a professional surveyor and so is sometimes referred to as a site survey. A plot plan typ­ically includes the following information:

• Property lines

• Bearings and distances of the property lines

• House footprint including overall dimensions

• Other structures like detached garages, walls, fences, and so on

• Orientation of the lot in relation to true north

• Right-of-ways

• Sidewalks and boulevards

• Setbacks and easements

The right-of-way is the publicly owned area of land along the front of a lot that includes the street or road, sidewalk if one is present, and boulevard (Figures 6—7 and 6—8). The average width of a right-of-way is 60 feet in a residential area, although the width may vary from 30 feet to 120 feet. Right-of-ways are regulated by the local governing body such as a village, township, city, or even county. Thus, it is necessary to check with the appropriate local government office to determine the regulations pertaining to the right-of-way.

A sidewalk is often located just inside the right-of-way (Figure 6—8). Consequently, most property lines and corners are found immediately adjacent to the edge of the sidewalk. Even though it is outside of the actual property lines, the maintenance of a sidewalk is typically the responsibility of the property owner.

A boulevard, also referred to as a berm or tree lawn, is the strip of land located between the sidewalk and street edge (Figure 6—8). The boulevard is sometimes the location of underground utilities and is where most street trees are planted if no utili­ties are present. Like the sidewalk, the boulevard is under the jurisdiction of the local municipality, a surprise to some homeowners who think they own all the ground between their house and the street edge. The property owner is responsible for the

maintenance of the boulevard but is usually restricted about what landscape treatment is permitted next to the street.

A setback is the minimum distance that any portion of a structure, such as the house or garage, must be located from a given property line. That is, a structure must be “set back” or built at least a specified number of feet from the property line. Consequently, most single-family residential lots have a “front-yard setback,” a “back­yard setback,” and two “side-yard setbacks” (Figure 6—9). A landscape designer should be aware of setbacks because they typically restrict the location of site structures such as fences, walls, gazebos, pool buildings, and so on, especially in the front yard.

An easement is a strip of land, usually situated along the sides or back of the lot, along which others (often utility companies) have the legal right of access (Figure 6—10). The easement may straddle a property line and be shared by adjoining properties, or it may occur entirely inside the lot. Utility companies have the freedom to locate util­ities above or below ground, to excavate into ground, and move equipment within the easement for maintenance. Therefore, no structures or sizable plant materials should be located in an easement. If such obstructions are placed in an easement, a utility company has the right to remove and not replace them.