What is an easement?
An easement is a right of use by one party over the property of another party, sometimes for a specific purpose. For Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services, easements are property interests which document the conditions under which Storm Water Services has permission to enter an easement area on private property to repair drainage issues and/or perform on-going maintenance. A storm drainage easement is a recorded, legal document which describes easement boundaries and any conditions and restrictions related to the permission granted by the property owner to Storm Water Services. Under the easement, the property owner is the grantor and the City (or other applicable municipality through Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services) is the grantee.
Is an easement necessary to fix stormwater issues?
Unlike some municipalities in North Carolina, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services may address stormwater issues on private property when a storm drainage easement approved by Storm Water Services is granted for that specific reason. Until an easement has been executed and recorded at the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds office by Storm Water Services, maintenance of any portion of a storm drainage system on private property remains the legal responsibility of the property owner.
If I grant an easement, is it still my property?
Yes. An easement does not give or take away property. An easement is a property right granting permission by one party to another party for access to property for a specific reason. However, there are certain restrictions for drainage easements accepted by Storm Water Services and so that the area can function as it is designed. For example, in a storm drainage easement, the flow of water cannot be blocked by the property owner and buildings, swimming pools, walls and other structures are not allowed within the easement area.
What’s allowed in a Storm Water Services easement?
- Fences (most types but not permanent features such as stone, block or concrete)
- Trees (as long as the root system is not a threat to the drainage system)
What’s NOT permitted in a Storm Water Services easement?
- Trees planted over stormwater pipes
- Tennis courts or swimming pools
- Dams or anything that might block the flow of water
- Permanent structures not intended to be moved, such as walls or structures made of brick, block or concrete
- Sheds or other buildings.
When working within an easement, Storm Water Services may:
- Remove fallen trees and large debris from creeks when those obstructions create a qualifying drainage problem
- Clear storm drain pipes, catch basins and culverts
- Repair or replace broken storm drainage pipes
- Control severe creek bank erosion when necessary to protect water quality and adjacent properties
- Repair sinkholes that occur over drainage pipe systems.
When working within an easement, Storm Water Services does NOT:
- Clean up sticks, leaves or debris on private property after heavy rain or flooding
- Repair or replace private property damaged by stormwater runoff or flooding, including but not limited to air conditioners, heating units, fences, gardens, lawns, shrubs, mailboxes and dog houses
- Clear out incidental debris from creeks and drainage ditches such as trash, leaves, grass clippings or small tree branches
- Clear cut vegetation from creek banks as part of routine maintenance
- Mow a ditch or storm drainage easement on private property
- Re-grade or re-seed a storm drainage easement after the project warranty period.
The Charlotte Storm Water ordinance describes the limitation of the City’s maintenance responsibility. Specifically, Section 18-46 of the Charlotte Code of Ordinances outlines responsibility. North Carolina General Statutes, in particular Chapter 156, describe general drainage laws regarding the natural flow of surface water.