[Talk-us] Differences with USA admin_level tagging

Kevin Kenny kevin.b.kenny+osm at gmail.com
Tue Jul 11 19:31:53 UTC 2017

On Tue, Jul 11, 2017 at 2:18 PM, OSM Volunteer stevea
<steveaOSM at softworkers.com> wrote:
> I'm glad Adam brings up the topic of Gores, as I'm also unclear on how such "holes" get "punched into" larger (multi)polygons via tagging.  For example, I am "sort-of-sure" (but not positive) that in Vermont, a "gore" (or grant, location, purchase, surplus, strip...usually the result of "leftovers" from survey errors) get a tag of admin_level=4 to accurately reflect that the governmental administration happens via state-level bureaucracy.  Yet, like Adam, I also have the nagging feeling of "smells wrong," because I don't understand the mechanism by which such a "hole" is "punched into" the state like this to the exclusion of the lower-level entities (like a Town).  ("Sort-of-sure" doesn't feel good enough to me, so I seek clarification).

This is where I think you've gone astray.

Let me pick a concrete example: Dixville, New Hampshire, population 12.

This is a well-identified place, with known and surveyed boundaries.
It makes a point of being the first community in the United States to
report election returns. All the registered voters in Dixville gather
ceremoniously the night before Election Day, open the polls at
midnight, cast their ballots, close the polls again (which they can
do, since all registered voters have voted, there can be no more votes
to count), and report the total, usually a few minutes after midnight.

Having a population of only 12, it has no local government. All
government services are provided by the State of New Hampshire or by
Coös County. If the population were suddenly to boom (for instance, if
the Balsams Resort were to be converted into dozens of condos), it
could hold a town meeting (a legislature of the whole - common in New
England municipalities), elect a board of selectmen (the executive
committee), appoint a justice (a judiciary of one), and become New
Hampshire's 222nd town.

As such, it is at an equal administrative level to all other
towns/townships/cities in New Hampshire - it has the right to form a
municipal government. It simply has not done so. It is not some sort
of special object at admin_level=4 just because the State for the most
part fulfills the functions of a local government. It is an
admin_level=8 entity like any other town or village in the state.

All the Townships, Locations, Plantations, Grants and Purchases that
have not incorporated have the same status. They do not overlap any of
each other, or any Town or City. (Exception: Hart's Location,
population 41, is a full-fledged Town.) They are level-8
administrative entities that happen not to be self-governing, just as
(some) Hamlets within the Towns in New York.

Gores in Vermont are similar.

New York has no unorganized Towns - the most that ever happens in the
sparsely-inhabited ones is that the executive and legislative posts
might go vacant, in which case the county steps in to govern, as much
as government is needed.

I don't know the details about what happens with the Unorganized
Territory of Maine - but if we have no better information, we could do
worse than to create a single admin_level=8 area to represent it - or
leave it without administrative boundaries below State level. The
correct answer to, 'in what town is Chairback Mountain?' is, 'it is
not in any town. Its survey township is uninhabited.'

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