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Assuming I have an layer from a shape file which is not shaped like a rectangle how would I determine if a point lies within this layer?

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There's a couple of ways to do it - if you already have both geometries, than you can get an IRelationalOperator from the polygon, and simply execute "Contains" on it.

Failing that, you could execute a spatial query on the feature class (from the shape file), asking for all features that contain the point in question. More details available than you can shake a stick at from ESRI.

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