Calvert County, Maryland EV Parking Legislative Update

Calvert_Legislative_RequestThere is some news to report regarding recent suggestions made to the lawmakers of Calvert County, Maryland by a few of us EV drivers.

On December 2, 2014 the Calvert County Board of Commissioners voted to adopt new zoning ordinance parking regulations that includes an incentive for business owners to install electric vehicle charging stations in their parking lots. Unfortunately, the reward for placing the charging stations is to allow fewer overall parking spaces. The four of us who commented to the Planning Commission expressed concern about this leading to more ICEing.

The Planning Commission had originally proposed a zoning amendment to require installation of electric vehicle charging stations for public parking lots with more than 50 spaces. When the proposal went before the County Commissioners in a work session, the Commissioners vehemently opposed the requirement.

The Planning Commission subsequently dropped the requirement and came back with an incentive for installing charging stations. If a parking lot requiring more than 50 parking spaces provides two electric vehicle charging stations, then they would be allowed to reduced the required number of spaces by two.

In my opinion, this was a recipe for ICEing. With less overall parking spaces in a lot and with two spaces already dedicated for plug-in cars, I felt that gasoline cars would be parking in the EV spots when the smaller lot gets crowded. I spoke with Mary Beth Cook, Deputy Director, Zoning Officer of the Calvert County Department of Community Planning and Building about my concerns and sent a letter as part of the formal public comment process. I suggested they consider having the new parking lots pre-wired for future installation of charging stations.

I was not alone in expressing concerns to the Commissioners and Planning Board. Two other plug-in vehicle drivers, Mark Czajka and Scott Wilson, wrote letters also suggesting pre-wiring of the lots and pointing out issues such as placing the charging spots away from the prime parking locations.

I spoke with Deputy Director Cook again yesterday and she told me that the Zoning Regulations will be getting a rewrite in the near future and that our comments will be useful in the plans they have for revisiting the charging station recommendations which they seem to be committed to promoting. She also mentioned that Calvert County is looking at some grants to install charging stations in public places. I’ll keep an eye out for that announcement.

PublicHearingThe other development came as a result of the Calvert County resident and EV driver who came to the October 21 public hearing and spoke about the need for enforcement to ensure that spaces for electric car charging are not blocked. The Southern Maryland News reported that Bryan Murtha told the Planning Board and the County Commissioners that electric vehicle charging stations are useless unless the spaces for them are enforced for electric cars only.

That comment was noted by the County Attorney, John B. Norris, who included it in the 2015 Legislative Requests that he brought before the Board of Commissioners at a work session on Nov. 18, 2014. This was labeled a “request to provide enforcement provisions for the unauthorized use of electric vehicle parking spaces.”

Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt gave his view that filling stations for fuel cell vehicles are likely to surpass the use of recharging stations in a very short time making the issues surrounding EV charging stations irrelevant. Commissioner Jerry Clark didn’t seem to be informed that this was being suggested in response to the charging stations that would be installed as a result of the incentives included in the zoning text amendments. Instead he focused on the single public station that is currently in the county. He also said that “when the price of gas gets back down to a dollar, we won’t even be talking about this.”

In the end, the board took “no position due to Statewide implications,” but the issue was presented to the State Delegation from Calvert County at a meeting on December 2, 2014. This time, the County Attorney referenced a letter from the Director of MD Volt, Inc.

I’m not betting on $1.00 a gallon gasoline nor do I expect that fuel cell vehicles are going to take over anytime soon. But plug-in electric vehicles are here today and if Calvert County is going to offer incentives to encourage public charging stations, then they should also provide enforcement provisions to ensure those stations are not blocked.

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