‘Let us come back home’: Louisville residents, Marshall Fire victims protest rebuilding codes

Audrey DeBarros held back tears Sunday as she addressed a crowd of more than 300 outside the Louisville City Hall.

“These have been the hardest eight weeks of my life,” lamented DeBarros, who lost her home on West Mulberry Street to the Marshall fire on Dec. 30. “All we’re asking is for City Council to let us come back home.”

“Throw them out!” shouted a member of the crowd in response.

The group gathered to protest an ordinance that was passed by Louisville City Council in November 2021, which requires residents to build new homes in compliance with the latest International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

In recent weeks, Louisville residents have spoken up against the building requirements, which they said will add thousands of dollars to rebuilding costs for Marshall fire victims, many of whom are already facing setbacks related to being underinsured.

However, given the strong pushback from the community, many fire victims feel the City Council has been slow to address the rebuilding code requirements.

DeBarros cited this as one of the main reasons she and a handful of other fire victims decided to organize Sunday’s rally.

“We as a community felt compelled to act and to speak because we don’t feel like we’re being heard right now,” Debarros, said before the protest. “To ask people who have literally nothing to foot the bill for these environmental codes — on top of everything else we’re dealing with — is just too much. We want it to be known how this decision to enforce us to uphold the new codes will impact our ability and desire to live in Louisville.”

The 2021 IECC requires new buildings to be built to certain energy efficient standards. These requirements include both commercial and residential buildings to run on all-electric or have electric capabilities, have electric vehicle charging stations, have either solar panels or the ability to support solar panels, and meet a net zero carbon emission standard.

Also speaking at the rally were former Louisville Mayor Chuck Sisk and a handful of Louisville residents, who all expressed frustration with City Council for their inaction regarding the codes.

Though not on the agenda of speakers, council members Caleb Dickinson and Chris Leh unexpectedly took to the stage to try and quell the crowd.

“I know that on Tuesday, we’re going to be listening to you, we’re going to be listening to others who aren’t here too because that’s our job,” Leh said to loud applause. “I’m going to try and convince as many of my council members to roll back net zero.”

City Council plans to discuss the IECC codes during the upcoming meeting on March 1, which is accompanied by a meeting packet of more than 600 pages worth of information relating to the building codes.

According to Louisville City Clerk Meredyth Muth, it is possible for council to repeal the current rebuilding requirements. Should council choose to strike down the energy codes, a new ordinance would have to be passed in order to override the original ruling.

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