Professors Shelley Saxer and Jeff Baker Quoted in "Webster Groves Rejected Flood Buyouts. Law Experts Say the City Was Wrong" -- St. Louis Post Dispatch
Professors Shelley Ross Saxer and Jeffrey R. Baker are quoted in the St. Louis Post Dispatch article, "Webster Groves Rejected Flood Buyouts. Law Experts Say the City Was Wrong." The article considers the city of Webster Groves, Missouri's decision to reject buyouts for flood-damaged homes. The city worked with homeowners and applied for state and federal financial help to buy out the homeowners. But when the Federal Emergency Management Agency finally agreed and said it would pay most of the cost, city leaders declined to cover the balance for fear of setting a precedent.
Excerpts from "Webster Groves Rejected Flood Buyouts. Law Experts Say the City Was Wrong"
“Legally, I just can’t see it,” said Shelley Ross Saxer, a professor of law at Pepperdine University, which runs a relief clinic for homeowners hit by natural disasters. “If the government treats one property different from another property owner, all they have to do is show a rational basis for doing that.”
Jeff Baker, another law professor at Pepperdine, noted the buyout program is voluntary for homeowners and governing bodies alike.
“Opting into the FEMA buyout program for specific approved houses does not create a future legal obligation for state or local government to opt in again on other properties,” he said. “No homeowner could force the state or a local government to buy their house through the FEMA program.”
Saxer, Baker’s Pepperdine colleague, pointed to a legal precedent established through a Supreme Court ruling that would defend the city’s right to decline future buyouts “as long as they’ve got a rational basis,” she said.
Saxer said it hurts to see the funding opportunity slip away, particularly given the urgency to help communities brace for a hotter climate and more dangerous extremes.
“We’ve just got to figure out how to pay for this,” said Saxer. “That’s why my initial reaction was, ‘No! Don’t give that up!’”
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