Sale of this million-dollar home is up in the air because of stairways that are a couple of inches too narrow. PHOTO COURTESY OF TOWN OF MOUNT DESERT

Stairs stall home sale

MOUNT DESERT — A house for sale on Woods Road at Round Pond has just about everything you could want in a million-dollar home – except for stairs wide enough to meet life safety codes.

Without safety code compliance, the town’s code enforcement officer, Kim Keene, said she can’t issue a certificate of occupancy. And without that certificate, owners David Irvin and Jan Murphy can’t sell the house.

It is currently listed for sale at $995,000.

The house was built in 2003, but a certificate of occupancy was never issued.

Keene inspected the house last July after the owners applied for a certificate of occupancy. She noted several items that did not comply with the life safety codes.

Keene returned to the house last month and determined that the necessary corrections had been made except for the width of the stairs. According to the safety codes, stairs must be at least 36 inches wide to provide an adequate means of escape in case of fire.

“The interior stairway leading to the finished basement level and second floor level vary … from 33.5 to 34.5 inches in width,” Keene said in a letter to the homeowners. She told them she could not issue a certificate of occupancy “because the stairs don’t meet the requirements of the 1997 edition of the NFPA [National Fire Protection Association] 101 Life Safety Codes.”

The homeowners, through their attorney, Nat Fenton, filed an appeal of Keene’s denial with the town’s zoning board of appeals.

“This denial does not take into account the other methods of escape in both the basement and the second story of the residence, which more than compensate for any limitation in egress caused by the width of the stairs …,” Fenton wrote in the appeal application. “These equivalent methods of escape provide an equal or greater level of safety than would be provided by just the required 36-inch-wide stairs.”

The appeals board scheduled a hearing on the appeal for Jan. 27. But last week, Fenton sent Keene an email asking that the hearing be postponed until mid-March “in the hope that the reason for our appeal will have been solved beforehand and the hearing won’t be necessary at all.”

He added that “a resolution appears very likely.”

The house, which is on a 7.1-acre lot, has 4,816 square feet of living space. In 2013, the town assessed the value of the house and land at just under $1.15 million.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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