[Talk-us] Differences with USA admin_level tagging

Greg Troxel gdt at lexort.com
Sun Jul 9 01:42:52 UTC 2017

OSM Volunteer stevea <steveaOSM at softworkers.com> writes:

> To read this, then perhaps participate in first discussion, then
> possibly "solve" these issues, take the second line (Massachusetts) as
> an example.  Massachusetts did the MassGIS import, which included
> "City" boundaries and set their admin_level values to 8.

Actually, the current boundary data comes from a second import of
massgis data separate from the original imports.  And I have personally
verified muliple data points from this import, traipsing through the
woods with a GPS receiver and checking highly verifiable painted granite
markers vs the data, and can tell you (and Frederik :-) that it is
excellent-quality data.

> However, I assert (politely) that Massachusetts also has "Town"
> boundaries (sometimes called "Township" and by consensus yielding an
> admin_level value of 7) which either are or aren't in OSM (I can't
> tell) and which should have their admin_level set to 7.  But it
> appears they do not.  Again, OSM seems to need to identify "which,
> whether and how" we do this, on a state-by-state basis, in
> identifiably (only) nine US states.  I have taken it about as far as I
> can go, Minh has does yeoman work, we now have a "diff list" and now I
> post to talk-us to help us better untangle.  Can YOU "take a state or
> two" and help?

The notion that Town and City are fundamentally different in
Massachusetts is incorrect.   I think that's the long and short of your
basis for commenting, but if I'm off please tell me.

Massachusetts towns are never called townships.  That might be the case
in other states, but it feels to me more midatlantic (or at least new
yorky) than new englandy.  I have never heard them referred to by this
word.  Perhaps in maine, related to something that feels like public
land survey system way up north.

From a state government point of view, the state is divided into
municipalities., where every bit of land in the state is in exactly one
municipal entity.  Whether a particular entity is Town vs City is merely
a detail of the form of government, in terms of Board of Selectman and
Town Meeting vs Mayor and City Council (more or less; there are multiple
kinds of cities and that's messy, but they all I think have councils).
Both have zoning bylaws, general bylaws, property tax, police chief,
school committees, planning boards, conservation commissions, and
various other things all the same.  The town meeting vs city council is
really a minor distinction.  Sometimes a town changes into a city; I
think Framingham just did or is about to.  Other than people who live
there and elections, it's almost unremarkable except for rarity.

In particular, cities are not contained within towns.  They are peers,
fully equal in all ways, with a minor difference in government
organization.  Nobody I know thinks one is at a higher level than the

So I really do not understand the notion that there is anything wrong.
As a resident of a Massachusetts town, and as the person responsible to
the Board of Selectman to verify the boundary markers :-), I think the
current admin_level=8 equal treatment for Massachusetts cities and towns
is correct.

(I realize that in the human geography hierarchy of populated places,
there is a notion that cities are bigger than towns.  While that's often
true in Massachusetts (Boston is bigger than Florida), it's not part of
the definition.)

Not trying to give you a hard time, but I'm a local and I"m into this
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