Resale shop faces hardship in upgrading restroom, owners say

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

The Burlington Common Council, faced with slippery slope, decided on a 5-2 vote to grant a petition to delay required installation of a handicap-accessible restroom for 2 Fancie Gals at Tuesday’s meeting.

The owners of the resale shop, however, have less than five years to construct a restroom and were encouraged to apply for tax credits to finance the project.

The storeowners sought a petition, citing inability to fund the upgrades, indicating the business experienced some setbacks in 2017.

The decision, which City Attorney John Bjelejac called a “slippery slope” at the Aug. 27 Committee of the Whole meeting, comes in spite of initial recommendations made by city officials to deny the permit.

By Tuesday’s meeting, however, some officials suggested punting on the decision and leaving the matter up to the state.

City Administrator Carina Walters, who met with and corresponded with owners Cynthia and Aubrey McGaughy since early last year, said the decision boils down to precedent.

“The Common Council does have the ability to waive the requirement, however, as a matter of good policy position, staff recommends the petition is denied because precedence would allow the Common Council to reconsider all staff recommendations related to building codes,” she said at Tuesday’s meeting.

City officials recommended denial of the petition because it did not meet zoning and building codes.

The property, which had been zoned industrial in 1960, has undergone a series of zoning changes since then, including residential.

When the previous owner died, the property was changed to commercial, which would require the future owners to upgrade its facilities to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, according to state code.

Although state code requires an ADA accessible restroom, there is an exemption allowing a waiver, which needs municipal approval.

According to the exemption, a small retail business can forego building an ADA accessible restroom, if it meets specific requirements.

The requirements include occupancy of no more than 25 customers, other accessible restrooms are conveniently located and available to patrons and employees during all hours of operation, and written approval by the local municipality. The approval must be copied and available upon request.

The McGaughys, who delivered a presentation at the Committee of the Whole meeting, said they met all four requirements, pointing out McDonald’s and the Burlington Public Library as an alternative restrooms.

City officials, however, stated the other restroom provision was not met.