City council keeps door open for disability access

Proposed ordinance puts string on funds

Entities that receive city money for future building improvements could become subject to requirements for disability access.

The Minot City Council on Monday voted 6-1 to approve an ordinance on first reading that establishes a requirement for automatically-operated, public access doors in buildings renovated or constructed with $5,000 or more in financial assistance from city funds.

The city council began considering an automatic door requirement in connection with its downtown facade improvement program after the question of access was raised by a resident with a disability.

In discussing a broader ordinance that goes beyond the facade program, council members discovered the matter isn’t without its complexities.

In the proposed ordinance, the requirement would apply to buildings or businesses established for public and private institutional uses and commercial uses, which are specifically identified within the city’s land development ordinance as public use buildings. It exempts home-based businesses, such as childcares.

City Attorney Stefanie Stalheim said her office has not uncovered specific legal authority stating a Tax Increment Financing District or tax abatements are considered public funds.

“But we think there’s a strong argument to be made that properties that received the benefit of those financing mechanisms do receive the benefit of public funds,” she said, noting programs such as TIF districts are listed as subject to the automatic door requirement in the draft ordinance.

The council also determined that companies receiving forgivable loans, such as through the MAGIC Fund, would be subject to the requirement, while companies receiving regular loans from other sources, such as the Business Accelerator Fund funded by the MAGIC Fund, would not be subject.

Stalheim noted the proposed ordinance does not include exceptions for businesses outside city limits.

The council also amended the proposed ordinance to require two automatic doors in instances in which a person must access through a vestibule to enter a building.

“I think it’s a really, really muddy ordinance that’s going to take a lot of clarification all of the time when we have businesses who are seeking some of these public funds. And I think it’s going to take a lot of staff time. I think it’s going to cause headaches,” council member Lisa Olson said. “While the intent is good, I don’t know if I can support it.”

Olson cast the only dissenting vote on first reading of the ordinance. The council still has opportunity to amend the ordinance before second reading and final passage.


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