- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Gerald and Nancy Barton are in a fix. After an April 3 storm flooded their Louisville home, they had to tear out the floorboards and the bottom half of the wallboards. But they can’t get the permits they need to repair the damage.

The Courier-Journal reports (https://cjky.it/1Pbwmi1) that’s because of a Metro ordinance designed to prevent rebuilding in areas that suffer from repeated flooding. It requires people in homes with serious flood damage to raise the lower level of their homes at least a foot above the flood zone in order to rebuild.

“The intent was if people were continually being flooded and they weren’t doing anything to alleviate that as far as moving away or whatever, we just couldn’t go on reimbursing them for flood problems forever,” said Councilman Glen Stuckel, a builder who was on the council when the flooding ordinance passed in 2006.

But the Bartons say they can’t afford to raise their home. They also can’t afford to move and abandon the house they purchased in the 1970s. The county won’t let them repair, and in the home’s current condition they can’t sell.

“We just can’t take it anymore,” Gerald Barton said.

The problem, which officials said could affect hundreds of homeowners, has prompted Mayor Greg Fischer to form a special work group tasked with developing a plan within 30 days.

Steve Emly is the Metropolitan Sewer District’s retiring chief engineer. He said it comes down to either allowing people to remain in their homes for a lot longer, exposing them to more risks of future flooding and more insurance payouts, or coming up with a local buyout program.

MSD has already bought out about 190 property owners in the last 15 years. FEMA grants have paid the lion’s share, but they can take two or three years to obtain.

Metro Council members may also press for are new restrictions on building in those flood prone areas. Councilman James Peden said he eventually wants lawmakers to block all future development in floodplains.

Metropolitan Sewer District officials said the ordinance that prevents rebuilding has helped given Louisville one of the highest scores with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That translates into 30 percent less expensive subsidized flood insurance rates, saving local residents a combined $1.2 million annually.

As many as 12,000 homes in Louisville are subject to flooding and eligible for subsidized insurance.

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Information from: The Courier-Journal, https://www.courier-journal.com

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