​​Easements - Frequently Asked Questions​​

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 boun​​daries 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.

What is a Conservation Easement?

Natural areas, called vegetative stream buffers, were created to remove pollutants, sediment and excess nutrients from stormwater runoff. They improve surface water quality and provide habitat for birds, turtles, frogs, insects and other wildlife.

To protect buffers, Storm Water Services has written agreements with landowners that transfer with any sale of the land to a new owner. Known as a conservation easement, the agreement places restrictions on a portion of the property to protect vegetative buffers and allow access for Storm Water Services to monitor the area over time. Periodically you may see staff inspecting these areas.

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)
  • Shrubs
  • Flowers

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.

Easement Acquisition.

When it rains, the water has to go somewhere. A stormwater conveyance system is designed to efficiently gather and carry the water from all across the community to large water bodies such as rivers and lakes. In order to be effective, the system must be sized correctly to handle the volumes of runoff generated. Charlotte's stormwater system is made up of a network of storm drains, pipes, streams and ponds. Often, components of this system are located on private property, behind homes and businesses along property lines. Storm Water Services is continually working to provide effective solutions to manage and limit the impact of stormwater runoff on our communities. The funds generated by the stormwater fee go directly to pay for these solutions, benefiting the community, protecting homes and property, the natural environment, valuable infrastructure and water quality. In order for work to be done on private property, an easement must be obtained, giving Storm Water Services legal access. If an easement is needed, a city Storm Water Services representative, either an employee or someone hired by Storm Water Services, will contact the affected property owners. In most cases, the property owner will be asked to donate an easement, after all, stormwater fees are paying for the project. The project cost include not only constructing the improvements but also planning and designing the improvements and acquiring the necessary easements to build the project. If an easement is not donated, Storm Water Services will work with property owners to reach an agreement on construction impacts. If we cannot reach an agreement, then the City has the right to condemn for the easement. Many storm drainage projects require multiple easements that connect many properties. Therefore, it is important that all easements are obtained in order to improve the entire system. Understanding easements. What is an easement? An easement is simply the right to access property. It is not a land taking. It allows the City a legal means to access private property while leaving ownership in the hands of the current owner. Why do we need easements? The purpose behind an easement is to provide the necessary space needed to construct improvements and to move equipment and materials in and around the construction site. An easement allows future access to allow for maintenance of the infrastructure and as the infrastructure needs to be replaced, the easement allows for that to happen. What happens after activity in the easement? Following construction or maintenance activity utilizing an easement, conditions will be restored. Property owners should continue to perform normal lawn maintenance such as watering the grass. There are different types of easement, storm drainage, conservation, specialized to name a few. Easements vary in width depending on the infrastructure improvements and how deep the system is in the ground. It is important to understand that there will be some limitations within an easement. Trees can't be planted too close to infrastructures as their roots might infiltrate and block pipes. Swimming pools cannot be installed within the easement as they would limit access. Permanent structures such as additions or brick walls or enclosed patios are also prohibited for the same reason. However, driveways are permitted as well as temporary structures such as sheds and fences but may need to be moved during maintenance. Easements may have special restrictions regarding vegetation and maintenance. Granting an easement is a significant role you can play in helping Storm Water Services protect your property and your neighbors from the impacts of stormwater runoff. You'll also be helping in a larger way by contributing to the protection of natural resources and overall water quality and your community. Storm Water Services, managing our stormwater together.