Easement rights on residential properties will no longer depend on who gets building permits first, under a change recently approved by the Coweta County Board of Commissioners.
Residential property that doesn’t have access from a public road can be served by an easement – essentially, a shared driveway. But county rules only allow three homes to be served by a single easement.
Traditionally, easement use was recorded when a building permit for a home was obtained on a property. If a property was to be subdivided into more than three tracts on an easement, only the first three people to get a building permit for a home would be allowed to use the easement as access for their homes, unless a variance was granted.
A few months ago, an in issue arose when a longtime property owner went to get a permit for property that had road frontage but no good road access because of a lake. Another property owner on the easement had cut out a tract of land and conveyed easement rights with that tract. The current owner of that newer tract, who bought the property in 2013, had applied for and received a building permit for that tract. The longtime property owner then lost any rights to use the easement.
At the April 10 county commission meeting, the commissioners voted to approve a variance, allowing the property owner to be the fourth person on the easement.
While dealing with that issue, planning and zoning officials decided to suggest changes to the way the county regulates easements.
“It’s our goal to make sure this doesn’t happen anymore,” said Angela White, assistant planning and zoning director.
The regulation based on building permits meant the county was having to track building permits and see which ones were issued when.
The new rule does away with the building permit issue and instead gives the easement rights to the first three tracts that are recorded as lots.
Before subdivision regulations were put in place in 1984, “developers could cut in dirt roads and serve as many lots as they could fit,” said Planning Director Robert Tolleson at last week’s county commission meeting.
Over time, residents on those dirt roads would petition the county to take over the roads and maintain them. Sometimes, residents would then ask the county to pave the roads. Tolleson specially mentioned Cabin Road off Lower Fayetteville and Couch Road off Gordon Road.
Commissioners put in the three-per-easement rule so that there wouldn’t be that future pressure to turn a developer’s easement into a county road, Tolleson said.