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Louisville allows fire victims to rebuild under older codes

A woman reacts to seeing the remains of her mother’s home destroyed by the Marshall Wildfire in Louisville on Dec. 31, 2021. (Jack Dempsey/Associated Press file)

LOUISVILLE – The Louisville City Council in suburban Denver voted Tuesday night in favor of allowing residents whose homes were significantly damaged or destroyed in Colorado’s most destructive wildfire to rebuild under less-stringent environmental standards.

The Council voted 5-2 to allow affected residents to rebuild under the city’s 2018 codes instead of the 2021 codes. The new ordinance will take effect in 30 days.

The Council adopted the stricter 2021 codes shortly before the Dec. 30 wildfire ripped through the area, destroying 1,084 homes, including 550 in Louisville, and causing more than half a billion dollars in damage. After the fire, some residents complained that the regulations would add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of rebuilding.

The updated rules, known as the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code, would have required all newly constructed homes to have electric vehicle charging infrastructure, to be built with better energy efficiency and with all-electric systems and appliances or to be easily upgraded from natural gas to electric systems.

Mayor Ashley Stolzmann, who spearheaded the effort to update the building codes, voted against allowing fire victims to rebuild under the 2018 standards.

“There are several people that have been against taking climate action and have been against the energy codes from the onset, and they have unfortunately used this tragic opportunity to advance their political cause,” she said.

Stolzmann, who said the cost savings of building under the 2018 codes have been exaggerated, went against several council members who said they wanted to remove impediments to rebuilding.