LOUISVILLE — Louisville officials unanimously approved a pair of emergency measures this week aimed at easing some of the financial burden facing residents whose homes burned in last December’s Marshall Fire.
The ordinances, both of which were passed on first reading (municipal ordinances typically require at least two readings and two public hearings prior to a vote), establish a use-tax credit program for permits and materials purchased for the purpose of rebuilding homes, and also allow fire victims to rebuild using 2018 building codes requirements, which are less stringent — and theoretically less expensive — than new codes adopted in 2021.
Passing emergency ordinances on first reading represents “an unusual situation” said Louisville city councilman Dennis Maloney, but considering Marshall Fire victims have been attempting to recover for the better part of a year, “any more discussion or delay didn’t serve anybody’s purpose.”
Instructions on how to apply for and receive credits are expected to be issued in the coming days, and checks could be in the mail as quickly as 15 to 30 days after approval, city staffers said.
Those staffers estimate that the city will issue about $5.7 million in use-tax credits over the next four years.
City leaders acknowledged that the program is likely to have long-term implications for Louisville’s coffers, but agreed that an aggressive approach is necessary in this case.
“The fire survivors shouldnt be the ones funding the rebuild of the city and the roads and the sidewalks,” which use taxes help pay for, Councilman Caleb Dickinson said. “The whole city needs to do that.”
He said that city officials need to have continued conversations about how best to equitably spread the burden of recovery.
“There is a fiscal impact to doing this … [and] we might need to find a new revenue stream,” Dickinson said.
Regarding the building-code exemption measure, the “opt-out option responds to concerns raised by many victims of the Marshall Fire over the potential costs, material and labor constraints, and delays in design and construction that could occur through implementation of the [previously adopted 2021 building codes, which include a potentially costly net-zero energy efficiency standard,] according to a city memo. “Allowing the option to build under the [2018 code standard] for Marshall Fire victims helps to ensure costs are contained, especially for underinsured homeowners, and helps keep current residents in the community.”