City Council Finance Committee OKs amended requirement for adult changing tables

The revised ordinance would not apply to businesses with a capacity of fewer than 400 people.

  • By Ric Anderson
  • | 9:24 a.m. March 21, 2024
  • | 4 Free Articles Remaining!
Jacksonville City Hall
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Legislation that would require some Jacksonville businesses to upgrade their restrooms to provide changing tables for disabled adults cleared a hurdle March 19 when the City Council Finance Committee approved an amended version of the proposal. 

Ordinance 2023-0780, which was introduced in November 2023, originally would have required businesses with a capacity of 150 or more to establish a family bathroom with a changing table. 

Committee member Raul Arias, a restaurant owner, said the bill drew concerns from small-business operators over both the upfront cost of building a separate bathroom and the long-term cost of losing space for the facilities that would otherwise generate income. 

He said build-out of an ADA-compliant bathroom would cost more than $40,000.

Before the ordinance came before the Neighborhoods Committee on March 18, it had been amended to increase the capacity to 400 and be applicable only to businesses providing a total of six or more toilets. 

Arias said Neighborhoods Committee members remained concerned about the bill, but approved it with an understanding that it would be further amended.

After additional discussions with business owners, Arias introduced another round of amendments before the March 19 Finance Committee meeting. Chief among them was a provision allowing businesses to adapt or retrofit their existing restrooms to accommodate changing tables, so long as they placed the tables in both their men’s and ladies’ rooms. 

Arias said the amendment was a compromise that would provide two changing tables while also saving money for business owners. The cost of installing two table is about $20,000, he said, or half the amount of building a separate family restroom.

The committee approved the bill as amended, sending it toward a final vote by the City Council on March 26.

The vote came after committee members heard parents of disabled children discuss the need for changing tables in public places. 

Robbin Brydges, who modified her minivan so that she could change her 18-year-old son Dalton during outings, said her only other option was generally to change him on the floor of a ladies’ room. 

“Every child and every person deserves the dignity and privacy of being able to use the restroom and be changed and be cleaned without being exposed to everybody,” she said.

Changing on the floor is unsanitary and also causes awkwardness and discomfort for other patrons, she said.

“Would you want to bring your daughter into a restroom and I’m changing him?” she asked the committee members.

Brydges said she’d been questioned by police for changing Dalton in her minivan, which is fitted with curtains that can be drawn to protect his privacy. She said police heard noises coming from the vehicle and suspected she was doing something inappropriate. 

Shawn M. Seagroves, who opened a sandwich shop in early 2023 in partnership with his wife, said his establishment would not be affected by the ordinance as currently written. He said he was concerned that the requirement could eventually be applied to smaller and smaller businesses. 

Seagroves said it would cost at least $50,000 to bring his store into compliance. In addition to retrofitting costs, he said, he would lose income from having to close the store while the work was done.  

“If I had to retrofit my restaurant for this right now, it would put me out of business,” he said.

Seagroves said he sympathized with parents of disabled or elderly individuals who needed assistance, but he urged committee members to consider the financial impact for businesses. 

City staff said the amendment was modeled on an international building code, which requires businesses with at least six toilets to include an adult changing table. The ordinance would apply to new construction and businesses undergoing substantial remodeling, including plumbing. 

Council member Matt Carlucci, who introduced the ordinance, said he would support the amendment but hoped there would be more progress toward providing private facilities for disabled and elderly individuals. 

Brydges offered a similar opinion on the alterations to the ordinance.

“It’s better than what we have today, and maybe we can improve it down the road,” she said.



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