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Taylor v. Hiatt

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

June 4, 2019

BRUCE TAYLOR and SUSAN A. TAYLOR, Plaintiffs,
v.
THOMAS HIATT, THOMAS R. HIATT and JEWEL HOLLARS, Defendants.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 13 February 2019.

          Appeal by Plaintiff from order entered 8 March 2018 by Judge James K. Roberson in Alamance County No. 17-CVS-1429 Superior Court.

          Oertel, Koonts & Oertel, PLLC, by Geoffrey K. Oertel, for the Plaintiffs-Appellants.

          Pittman & Steele, PLLC, by Timothy W. Gray, for the Defendants-Appellees.

          DILLON, Judge.

         Plaintiffs brought this action seeking a declaration and other relief concerning an easement extending across Plaintiffs' property to Defendants' property. Plaintiffs appeal the trial court's order granting summary judgment to Defendants. After review of the materials before the trial court, we reverse and remand.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs and Defendants own adjacent tracts of land in rural Alamance County. Defendants access a nearby State road via easements (private roads) which span across Plaintiffs' land. Plaintiffs built two gates and fencing somewhere along these private roads to fence in their horses. These gates do not prevent Defendants from being able to access the public road, as Plaintiffs have provided Defendants with the access code for the gates. However, Defendants contend that, based on language in the chain of title concerning the easements, Plaintiffs are not allowed to construct the gates on the easement. Plaintiffs commenced this action, seeking a declaration of their right to construct and maintain the gates in question. Defendant counterclaimed, seeking a declaration that Plaintiffs have no right to erect and maintain the gates and an order directing Plaintiffs to remove the gates.

         A. Title History and Creation of the Easements

         The chain of title at issue is described herein. The map below is included for clarity. The map depicts six tracts of land, referenced in this opinion as Tracts 1-6. Plaintiffs own Tracts 1 and 3. Defendants own Tract 4. The other tracts, Tracts 2, 5, and 6, are not subject to this present dispute. Defendants access Roney Lineberry Road (a public road shown at the top of the map just above Tract 2) via two private roads. These private roads are depicted on the map below as a dotted line and a thick line, respectively. The location of these roads, as shown on the map, is approximate. The record before us is not clear as to the precise location of these roads.

         (Image Omitted)

         The history of these tracts, including Plaintiffs' and Defendants' tracts, is as follows:

As of 1989, Tracts 1-6 were all part of a single tract (approximately one hundred nine (109) acres in area) and were owned by the Estate of C.R. Roney (the "Estate"). Over the years, there have been four maps filed to subdivide this large tract, ultimately into six tracts. And over the years, two easement roads have been created to provide access to these tracts as they were being created: the dotted-line road depicted above was created by a map recorded in ...


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