LOUISVILLE — Louisville officials this week unanimously approved a pair of emergency measures aimed at easing some of the financial burden faced by residents whose homes burned in the Marshall Fire last December.
The ordinances, which both passed first reading (municipal ordinances typically require at least two readings and two public hearings before a vote), establish a use tax credit program for permits and purchased materials with the aim of rebuilding homes, and also allowing fire victims to rebuild using the requirements of the 2018 building codes, which are less stringent – and theoretically less expensive – than the new codes passed in 2021.
The passage of first reading emergency ordinances represents “an unusual situation,” Louisville City Councilman Dennis Maloney said, but given that Marshall Fire victims have been trying to recover for much of the year, “any discussion or further delay has served no one.”
Instructions on how to apply for and receive credits are expected to be released in the coming days, and checks could be mailed as quickly as 15 to 30 days after approval, city workers said.
These staff members estimate that the city will issue approximately $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 coffers, but agreed that an aggressive approach is needed in this case.
“The survivors of the fires shouldn’t be the ones funding the rebuilding of the city, the roads and the sidewalks,” who use taxes to help pay, Councilman Caleb Dickinson said. “The whole city has to do it.”
He said city officials need to continue their conversations about how best to fairly distribute the burden of recovery.
“There is a tax impact to doing this … [and] we may have to find a new source of income,” Dickinson said.
With respect to the building code exemption measure, “the opt-out option addresses concerns raised by many victims of the Marshall fire regarding potential costs, material and labor constraints and design and construction delays that may occur during the implementation of the [previously adopted 2021 building codes, which include a potentially costly net-zero energy efficiency standard,] according to a municipal note. “Allow the option to build under the [2018 code standard] for Marshall Fire victims helps contain costs, especially for underinsured homeowners, and helps keep current residents in the community.