Permit Exception Request Leaves Council Confused

OCEAN CITY – A request for a building permit exception for a
set of interior stairs at a local residence left the town in a precarious
situation this week, with no precedent for allowing the exception available to
the City Council.

Joseph Dashiell of Joseph
T. Dashiell Builders, Inc. and his attorney J. Calvin Jenkins made the request
to the City Council this week, in hopes of securing a permit exception for a
set of interior stairs in violation at a home on Channel Buoy Drive.

The two-story dwelling
contains a set of interior stairs, leading from the first to second floor, with
a maximum rise of 8 1/16 inches, a riser height that is 5/16 of an inch over
the maximum riser height allowed by the 2000 International Residential Code

“They do meet all the
other codes in the state of Maryland,”
said Dashiell.

Dashiell maintained that
correcting the problem is not a simple task and would only cause more issues.

“Correcting causes other
problems, we are kind of limited in where we can go. If we correct the height
of the risers, then we create another problem,” he said.

Removal and replacement
of the stairs is also problematic, as removing the stairs would require the
elimination of several beams, some of which structurally support the second
floor. Replacement of the stairs could also reach costs of $50,000.

Chief Building Inspector
Official Mike Richardson weighed in on the issue, deeming the stairs unsafe.
“Going down those stairs makes for a precarious situation,” he said.

Richardson also explained that he is not aware of any area of
the city or building code that would allow for the Mayor and City Council to
grant such an exception. Richardson
added that the other option would be for Dashiell to appeal to the IRC Board of

Richardson explained that while the Mayor and City Council
could amend the town code to allow for a 8 1/4-inch riser height, he would not
recommend such an amendment.

Currently, Worcester County
and all other counties in Maryland
do allow for an 8 1/4-inch riser height, however the town has not adopted that
height into their code.

“The Worcester County
code was used, which allows for the 8 ¼ inch,” said Dashiell. “We were assured
[the stairs] were up to code…it was not discovered until the very end.”

The homeowner, Steve Allen,
was also present at the meeting and has been residing in the home for the past
month with a 120-day temporary permit.

“To me its an
insignificant issue, it has not been an issue for anyone in my family,” said

“It may be insignificant
but we do have regulation laws and codes,” said Council member Nancy Howard.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres
agreed that there is no procedure for granting the requested relief.

“You would have to pass
an ordinance that would amend the code to allow the Board of Appeals more
leeway. Whether that’s a wise thing to do, I’m not prepared this evening to
give an opinion,” said Ayres.

“It’s almost, I hate to
say it, a mini-Rivendell,” said Howard.

Several council members
voiced concerns with amending the code to provide the Board of Appeals with
more leeway to grant exceptions, pointing out that many builders might
intentionally make mistakes, knowing that they could be granted exceptions
after the fact.

The council voted
unanimously to move the issue to a work session and allow for more research on
the potential code amendments.