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Frustrated and furious Marshall Fire victims blast city leaders over new green building codes: ‘Why make it so hard for us?’


By Shaun Boyd

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    LOUISVILLE, Colorado (KCNC) — Two months after their lives were upended by a wildfire that took everything they owned, hundreds of Louisville residents unloaded on a City Council that they say is taking all they have left — the hope of rebuilding.

“Just let us f-ing go home,” said Barba Hickman, a Marshall Fire victim who lost her home.

She and her husband Rex among those who rallied outside Louisville City Hall Sunday afternoon in protest of a new green building code that City Council adopted just before the fire and that all fire victims now have to meet. Council admits it will add to the cost of rebuilding. It says homeowners will have to pay an additional $20,000. The Hickmans say builders put the number at $100,000 and, like most of those who lost their homes in the fire, the Hickmans are underinsured.

“They are saying to us we don’t care if you leave. That’s clearly what they’re saying,” said Hickman.

Louisville is the first and only city in the state to require homes be built with net zero greenhouse gas emissions and Barba Hickman says there are a lot of unknowns,

“They keep promising us all these funds. If they can find funds I’ll build, but if they want me to do it while they hope someone else will pay for it? I mean, I have nothing,” Hickman said.

The frustration and fury is shared by their neighbors in Superior.

Superior’s Board of Trustees is considering its own less-stringent green building code. At a board meeting earlier this month, residents begged trustees to exempt homes burned in the Marshall Fire.

“58 years. I lost everything. Why make it so hard for us? Just let us do what we’ve got to do,” said one fire victim as tears rolled down her face.

Trustee Neal Shah told fellow board members now isn’t the time.

“We’re not solving anything here. The thing that every homeowner is like just drilling into us is all this f-ing uncertainty,” Shah said, apologizing for the profanity. “They don’t know how much insurance money they’re getting. They don’t know who’s building their home, they don’t know where the rebate is coming from and all we hear is people saying the money is coming. … It’s been 45 days and nothing is here.”

Shah says many of the burned homes were built so many years ago that just bringing them up to current code would be a big improvement. Some board members proposed exempting fire rebuilds from the new code but Xcel Energy said either everyone meets the new code or no one gets a rebate.

“Xcel is a publicly traded company. They generate a lot of revenue. If they wanted out of the goodness of their hearts to help our homeowners rebuild they could do that yesterday,” Shah said.

He promised to do everything he can to help fire victims by voting to waive local sales and use tax and lower permit fees.

“While I won’t close that insurance gap by myself. I’m going to nickel and dime everything we can do to bring that together. One in seven homeowners lost their home. Unless some other organization steps up with real money, we’re going to lose our community.

At least two Louisville City Council members say they will vote to roll back the code, telling those at the rally that it’s a reasonable request.

For the Hickmans, who lost their home of 23 years, the heartache is almost too much to bear and made worse, they say, by a heartless city council.

“It’s complications on top of what dealing with. We wake up and cry every day,” said Barba.

Rex said they attended the rally for one reason.

“We want to go home. Our neighbors mean the world to us,” Rex said.

Louisville City Council will meet virtually Tuesday. Superior Board of Trustees will meet in-person Monday and consider a proposal to make new homes meet the new code and fire rebuilds meet the current code. Shah is worried about how the added complexity will impact builders and the town’s building department, which he says consists of one person.

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