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Louisville Metro Council Won't Take Immediate Action on Flood Rule

Justin Brock in the flood-damaged first floor of his house.

An effort by some Louisville Metro Council members to hold an emergency vote to change a flood ordinance that has left some residents with damaged homes they can’t repair failed Thursday evening by two votes.

The Metro Council voted 16-5 to go straight to a final vote, but fell short of the required 18 votes.

The ordinance would have change the rule to 50 percent in flood damage per incident, instead of over 10 years. If the emergency vote had happened and affirmed the proposed changes, the new rules would have been immediately approved. Now, the ordinance will be assigned to a committee for future consideration.

Councilman Steve Magre, along with eight other sponsors, introduced a bill that would relax a rule prohibiting repairs to homes that have been damaged by floods of 50 percent or more of their value over 10 years.

He wanted his colleagues to approve his measure as soon as possible because dozens of Louisville homeowners have been left practically homeless because of the rule's enforcement.

Magre said the motion to vote immediately failed because many members were absent for various reasons.

“I really think we would have had the votes actually,” Magre said following the meeting. “I am disappointed that we don’t. Keep in mind that it is an ordinance that is now into committee.”

Magre said some members voted no because they believed MSD officials who said relaxing that rule might be unnecessary, as a waiver process may help homeowners affected by the law. But Magre said that was the first time he heard about that option.

“It was finally raised in the committee of the whole 10 minutes before the start of the council meeting,” Magre said.

He said he had been asking about alternatives for a while and had never before heard of the waiver option. Magre said he found the whole situation frustrating.

“If there is waiver option that they feel sincere about and they feel that it allows MSD to provide humaneness, that would be fantastic," said Magre. "But I am not holding out much hope. I certainly would have the question, ‘why didn’t you raise this before?’”

MSD officials have also warned the move could have unintended consequences, including hurting the city's rating with the National Flood Insurance Program.That rating is used to determine flood insurance costs.

Mayor Greg Fischer has appointed a workgroup to study the issue; its first meeting was Monday.

Magre’s ordinance now goes before the public works committee and could later go to a full council vote.