You buy a waterfront home on a quiet cove, thinking you can build a dock, install a swimming pool, and cut down a few trees to clear the view.
If you're working with a real estate broker who doesn’t understand waterfront Lake Norman homes, they might miss some important things:
It’s next to an "environmental" shoreline classification, plus the lot is only 50-ft of waterfront; therefore a dock cannot be built since it would violate the environmental buffer.
The rear lot is only 30-ft deep, and therefore a pool cannot be built in the buffer zone between the “760” shoreline mark and the home.
The large trees are in a “Critical Area” watershed and cannot be removed as they are needed to absorb toxins from the runoff areas of the home.
When looking at waterfront Lake Norman homes, you’ll come across these dock scenarios:
I’ll provide the most detail on this type as they are the most common and sought after dock setups for waterfront Lake Norman homes.
If you don’t mind the maintenance, this is the premium advantage of living on Lake Norman waterfront property.
Every inch of Lake Norman shoreline is classified with 1 of 17 classifications, which tells a buyer what can be built on and around that shoreline.
Here is a satellite view showing the docks for a waterfront community in Cornelius.
Notice the black line running along the shore, this means it is classified as “Residential” (aka “can have a private dock”).
All good so far, we found a home that already has a private dock and is classified “Residential”.
If the current dock doesn’t meet your amazing vision for fun, and you want to add slips, a covered gazebo, make it longer, etc… then you’ll need the following info (remember, any change needs Duke Energy's permission).
The basic answer is a dock (and its features) can cover 1,000 sq/ft of water*.
That includes the total of:
*Note there are other limitations based on the date the lot was created and the length of shoreline. See here:
So what awesome things can you have on your docks? Let’s look at the feature limitations:
The homes dock is 1,000 sq/ft already. It doesn’t have any covered areas but you’d like to add one to cover the boat slip so you wouldn’t have to cover the boat during rain and periods of non-usage.
This would not be allowed since the roof would cover the water area where the boat is parked (previously uncovered), putting you over the allowed limit.
The dock is 990 sq/ft. You want to add 2 jetski floating pads on the side. This would not be allowed if the 2 pads are over 10 sq/ft. You might only be able to add 1 pad.
Your dock is 1,000 sq/ft, it has a great cover and jetski pads already. You want to build some stairs from your shoreline to the water. This is not allowed as stairs from the dock OR shoreline count towards the max sq/ft, since they cover the water.
You want to add a few extra mooring pilings next to your dock. This is OK, and doesn’t count towards any sq/ft. You don’t even need a permit but you need to notify Duke of your intent to do it.
Roof/sun decks on your dock? Yes! – Decks, gazebos, covered boat slips, and boat shelters must be single-story structures, BUT they may be roofed and designed to allow second story use (e.g., sundeck); however, the second story must not be roofed creating a two-story roofed structure.
Sometimes you’ll see an amazing waterfront property and notice the water looks very shallow around the dock.
Dredging can be done to provide boat access ONLY. Permits are not issued for swimming, beach or any other leisure activities.
You may dredge in the following areas:
Dredging requires A LOT of approvals and is very costly. We will always refer out to a professional. You cannot dredge March - June during spawning season.
We will walk you thought the full process if under contract to purchase a waterfront Lake Norman home, but it does like this:
01 - Request the seller to provide a copy of the pier permit and application...
02 - If the seller can’t provide any permitting history...
...or the existing structure differs from what was originally permitted, there may be a lake use permitting compliance issue.
03 - If you do buy the home, you will need to transfer the dock into your name.
Submit a Lake Permit application & User’s Agreement, available on the Duke Energy website. Lake Services will inspect the dock to ensure it was properly permitted and has not been modified without approval.
If any noncompliance issues are found, you as the current owner will likely be responsible for correcting the issues.
Looking at coves less than 25 ft wide? No new or expanded docks will be authorized in these areas.
Lake Norman is available for public recreation including boating, swimming, fishing and wading. While Duke Energy’s lake use permits allow permittees to restrict access to docks, those permits do not allow the lake neighbor to restrict public use of the lake or the shoreline.
Have you seen docks that look oversized, have enclosed boat houses on them, have 3 slips, or have 2 docks for one house?
This is common in many waterfront homes of Lake Norman. The home will have access to a nearby community dock area, which contains boat slips for each house.
This is ideal if you don’t want to deal with the upkeep and maintenance on your own, but still prefer to have boat access nearby.
I'm speaking mainly to small community shared docks, not Marina shared docks. Each have different rules.
Here is a satellite view showing the shared docks for a waterfront Lake Norman community.
Notice the Yellow line around the shoreline, this means it is zoned as a “Residential Marina” (aka Shared Docks).
Notice the homes on the left, if you were house hunting and thinking of adding a dock in the future, you’d be wrong. It would not be permitted.
The CCR’s for that specific community will contain how the dock is maintained, and if there are any usage restrictions in addition to the guidance from Duke Energy, so we cannot go into any lengthy detail on this.
You can install a PWC float for a jetski, but it must be installed within the confines of a slip AND the addition of the PWC float does not increase the total number of watercraft that the facility is designed to accommodate. So if you get one slip, you can only park one jetski (no other boats)
Whether a dock is allowed depends again on the classification of the shoreline.
Typically in smaller coves or areas of ecological sensitivity, you might have a beautiful waterfront Lake Norman home, but a dock will not be allowed.
Here is a satellite view showing homes in a small cove.
Notice the Brown line around the shoreline, this means it is zoned as a “Environmental” (aka No Docks Allowed).
These 3 large waterfront Lake Norman homes will not be allowed to have private docks, and you can see they do not. Notice the “Future Residential” (dashed black line) in the lower left, that means the neighbor that buys and builds there, will be able to build a dock as long as it starts 50ft from the end of the environmental area.
Sometimes, homes in these areas have shared docks nearby in more open water areas.
Though rare, you may come across a waterfront home for sale on Lake Norman with no dock yet. There are a few basic things you need to look at:
Be sure to verify the classification of the shoreline to make sure it is either “Residential” or “Future Residential” to see if a dock is allowed. Notice this home (likely a new construction), does not yet have a dock (but it is allowed).
Be sure to know the measurement of the shoreline, it must be 100-ft long to allow for a dock with todays regulations.
Now that you have a good basic knowledge (we hope) of docks, what happens if you violate those rules?
A final note from DE-LS... “Since every possible scenario can not be anticipated, DE-LS reserves the right to make special rulings in cases not specifically covered by these guidelines or to prevent violating the intent of the permitting programs.”
This is why a waterfront Lake Norman home buying specialist is needed, and best of all, you get the expertise for FREE, since the seller commonly pays the buyer's broker commission!
Congrats, you know the basics rules on docks for waterfront homes on Lake Norman.
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