County Code Enforcement Issues New Guidelines on Townhome Egress

A new Mecklenburg County interpretation of a section of state building code means builders of many urban townhomes will have to adopt one of two approaches to ensure compliance with life health safety requirements.

The issue involves language in IRC Code Section R310.1 – Emergency escape and rescue required. One provision in that section states that ‘Emergency escape and rescue openings shall open directly into a public way, or to a yard or court that opens to a public way.’ In late 2018, Mecklenburg County code officials began interpreting that provision to mean that an easement agreement was required in either the community Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CCRs) or on the recorded plat.

The Grant of Ingress/Egress Easement approved by the County Attorney (below), when included with exhibits (a site plan showing townhouse locations), is intended to ensure homeowners have access of ingress and egress to meet code compliance of R310. Essentially, the language ensures townhome residents have a legal access easement to cross adjacent yards and reach a public or private street, as required by building code.

Grant of Ingress Egress EasementWithout limiting any rights or obligations of any party under the declaration, and in addition to all existing easements by virtue thereof , and only to the extent required by the “Emergency Escape and Rescue Opening” within the North Carolina Residential Code and Chapter 2 of the North Carolina Residential Code , GRANTORS, hereby grant, bargain, dedicated and conveyed to all owners and occupants of residential lots containing or directly abutting the easement (exhibits).   Areas for their benefit (prohibiting construction of permanent barriers blocking egress paths of easement areas, if required by the NCRC), a permanent and perpetual right of way and easement over Easement Areas for ingress / egress to access public rights of way.

As described above, developers can either include this language in the community CCRs, or as a recorded “Easement Agreement” within the site plan (sealed by a NC Design Professional), dedicating those areas for such purposes as Emergency Escape and Rescue (Public Way).

For the method of using CCR as the document of record, developers will need to submit a CCR agreement with their construction drawings, so the agreement can be recorded, for verification of compliance, and confirmation of completion.

For more information, contact Patrick Granson, Director of Code Enforcement, at [email protected] or (980) 314-3434.

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