[Tagging] Tagging town/village/hamlet - am I misunderstanding something?

Greg Troxel gdt at lexort.com
Tue Mar 28 23:31:43 UTC 2017

Martin Koppenhoefer <dieterdreist at gmail.com> writes:

> 2017-03-27 16:38 GMT+02:00 Kevin Kenny <kevin.b.kenny+osm at gmail.com>:
>> But now I see that the places - for example, Fort Montgomery, NY
>> http://www.openstreetmap.org/relation/175462 - no longer have their names
>> rendered on the map. Are municipalities a special case, where the point tag
>> has to be retained to represent the 'town center'?  If so, I've only
>> touched at most a handful of them, and I'll be happy to put the points back.
> IMHO if you add place=city/town/village/hamlet to an administrative polygon
> like this, you might not gain a lot, because you could already see by
> looking at the admin_level what kind of entity it is, or maybe I miss
> something (I don't know the particularities of the US)? From my
> understanding, the administrative polygons show the borders of all land,
> the settlement and the surroundings, while a potential
> place=<settlement-value> polygon could show only the built up space
> (probably including the other settlement parts like zoos, parks, etc.).
> Similarly, I have never understood those place values that have been
> created for entities that are already dealt with by administrative
> polygons, namely country, state, county, municipality, region, district,
> borough, ...

This is definitely messy.  Legally, in Massachusetts we have cities and
towns, both admin_level=8; they are the same thing, but (slightly
oversimplifying in a way that doesn't matter for this dicussion)
governed by city council vs town meeting.

But, administrative boundaries and the human geography notion of a
settlement hierarchy are really totally separate things.  One is about
borders, and the other is about concentrations of population and a
shared sense of place.  Yes, the human geography notion is influenced by
borders; El Paso and Juarez are surely considered separate settlements.
In a strong sense they actually are different places.

This is further complicated because in many areas every bit of land is
built up with housing, except where it can't be (wetlands, etc.).  So
the old notion of a village with a few bouses, and then miles of farms,
and then the next village, doesn't really fit.  But if you adjust that
to be a village center with a church or shops, and then miles of just
houses, it pretty much works.

In the US, there is also the notion of place names for areas that used
to be villages that mattered, even though these days you can hardly tell
except to notice a few old houses close together.

While the center of a political entity usually qualifies as a populated
place (to use the GNIS term) or settlement (to use the human geography
term), the defined center is usually not the centroid.  So I think it
makes sense to both define the boundary and the center.  That should be
sort of a relation, and the point tag should also have a settlement tag
in addition to being noted as the center of the admin_level entity.

There are towns near me which have an admin_level=8 boundary, and also
have "South Foo", "North Foo", "Foo", and "West Foo" villages.
Originally these were clusters of houses.  Then the railroad came sort
of close, and then the sense of center moved closer to the station.  Now
the railroad is less important and the sense of center has moved in some
cases closer to a highway junction with lots of shops.  Sometimes the
old town centers are really in the exact same place as in 1750.

As for whether there should be polygons for the settlement objects, I
tend to avoid that, because it's really hard to say what's in the
village vs near it.   Just ask 50 people in Cambridge, MA whether some
particular building is "in" Harvard Square.

My overall summary is that boundaries and settlements are different,
we should tag both, and we should not blur them.

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