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Louisville MSD Facing Litigation Over Flood Ordinance Enforcement

Ashley Lopez

A Louisville homeowner prohibited by city ordinance from repairing her flooded home is planning litigation against the Metropolitan Sewer District.

In a foreclosure case over property in the Riviera neighborhood, attorneys have filed a motion for a third-party complaint against MSD on behalf of homeowner Jenn Allen Meredith. (Disclosure: Meredith is married to Kyle Meredith, who is an employee of Louisville Public Media, WFPL News’ parent organization.)

Earlier this year, several homeowners began speaking out against MSD for enforcing a city ordinance that prohibits homeowners from making repairs once flood damages over a 10-year period exceed 50 percent of the home’s value. The almost decade-old local ordinance was borne out of a federal initiative aimed at reducing the costs of flood insurance.

The Metro Council temporarily altered the ordinance in May. Other homeowners were bought out by MSD through a million-dollar quick buyout program.

In the motion filed as part of the foreclosure proceedings, Meredith claims that her constitutional property rights were violated because MSD enforced the then-obscure ordinance without previously notifying her of its existence, or of the agency's assessments of the cumulative damages to her property.

“They are essentially instituting a secret program with a secret list of properties that are impacted by the program that only MSD has access to,” said Randy Strobo, an attorney representing Meredith.

When reached for comment, MSD spokesman Steve Tedder said the agency would review the complaint. But he added that “MSD cannot comment on pending litigation.”

Brian Bingham, MSD’s chief of operations, said in April the agency didn't give homeowners information on property damages partly because regulators aren’t sure what can be legally provided.

“There is a lot of work being done right now to be able to verify what can or cannot be disclosed right now,” he told WFPL earlier this year. “For example, anything that goes through the national flood insurance program claims, that information is protected under certain federal laws from being disclosed.”

 The flooding earlier this year rendered the Merediths' home unlivable, a common situation in the Riviera neighborhood off River Road. The flood ordinance kept residents from repairing their homes, and several in the neighborhood are paying mortgages on the properties while also paying for temporary housing.

Strobo said a “third-party class-action complaint” was also filed. He said eventually the legal action could include multiple parties.

On Monday, Meredith will ask a Jefferson Circuit Court for permission to file a third-party complaint. If granted, MSD will officially be part of the lawsuit.