Early this year, the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld a Pima County ordinance requiring all new single-family homes to have wheelchair-accessible entrances, wide doorways, reinforced bathroom walls for grab bars, and high outlets. Washburn Custom Builders and the Home Builders Association of Southern Arizona filed suit against Pima County on the grounds that the requirements are cost-prohibitive and prevent homeowners from designing dwellings to their own specifications. They vow to appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.
However, the builders lost both at the trial level and in the appellate court. Some observers say the builder ordinance may be an advent of things to come, if not nationally, then certainly in communities that are retirement destinations. Attorney William Altaffer, who was involved with the case, says the Arizona appeals court decision could prompt officials in Phoenix and Tucson to enact similar laws.
The crux of the case came down to money. County officials were persuaded that the ordinance boosts property prices by just $100. They further argued that developers can apply for exemptions if costs exceed $200. While the court acknowledged the rights of homeowners regarding design, it noted that they “do not have a right to be completely free from government regulation of the use and occupancy of their real property.” The court also accepted the county's argument that the number of disabled residents will increase as the population ages, pushing accessibility to the forefront of county concerns.