Calvert County Officials Debate Electric Vehicle Charging Station Requirement in New Zoning Regulations

Should a local government require that electric vehicle charging stations be installed in private parking lots? That was the fundamental question at the Calvert County, Maryland Board of Commissioners work session on August 19, 2014.

The commissioners heard proposed amendments to the county’s zoning ordinance that included a requirement to provide at least one EV charging station for parking lots that have more than 25 spaces.

During a pause in the presentation by Mary Beth Cook, deputy director of the Department of Community Planning and Building, the commissioners focused their questions and criticism directly on the EV charging station requirement.

Commissioner Susan Shaw asked, “How did you come up with the number 25?” adding a comment that she didn’t think that one out of 25 cars on the road is an electric car. She also asked Cook, “How much will it cost a business to provide this when nobody may use it.”

Cook didn’t provide figures on the cost of installing the stations but pointed out that there are grants available and that the station owner can charge a fee to offset the expense.

Commissioner Jerry Clark asked, “Do we say you have to put a gas pump on every piece of commercial property that has a hundred cars?” Adding, “If people decide to buy an electric car it’s up to them to charge it. It’s not up to the guy who owns a business… if he want’s to put it in as an amenity on his own, that’s one thing. But to require it doesn’t make sense.”

Commissioner Shaw told Cook, “I’m going to tell you right now, I will not support this. I think it’s crazy. I know there will come a time maybe when a business owner may wish to install such a thing because it may benefit their business, but right now, to require it, seems bizarre to me.”

Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt suggested it could be included as a recommendation, not a requirement.

Cook said that it could be changed to be a recommendation but Commissioner Clark opined that it shouldn’t even be in the ordinance at all.

Shaw admitted that she was upset with the idea because, to her, it was an example of “the kind of stuff that just comes out of left field that makes no sense.” Adding that it should be a business decision based on whether the business owner can sustain it or make a profit.

President of the Board, Pat Nutter, also expressed his disagreement with the proposed regulation saying the requirement on a business before they can get zoning approval is too much. The consensus of the board was to not even leave the charging stations in the parking regulations as a recommendation. However, Shaw said there should probably be standards for charging stations in the parking regulations similar to standards for signs.

Commissioner Slaughenhoupt asked what would prevent him from parking his gasoline powered car in the electric vehicle charging spot. Cook admitted that there were no laws against it, responding, “I don’t believe it is prohibited.”

Slaughenhoupt summed up his position by saying, “The whole idea of incorporating electric charging, electric vehicles into the mainstream, is really not there yet. I know there are experimental vehicles out there and there are people who can live driving 20 miles and then spending eight hours letting it charge up and driving another 20 miles, but that’s not so practical in a very rural county like us. I just think we are a little early on that.”

These arguments are similar to those put forth by some members of the Rehoboth Beach Board of Commissioners during discussions about accepting two charging stations for the city. Should government be in the business of operating or requiring private entities to install EV charging stations? In this case, it seems that the Calvert County Board of Commissioners would like to define standards for charging equipment at parking spaces, such as dimensions and placement, but not even infer that charging stations are encouraged.

Regardless of the outcome of this zoning ordinance amendment, I would like to see Calvert County follow the lead of Montgomery County and Howard County and address the issue of reserved parking spots for plug in vehicle charging. We know this is on the mind of Commissioner Slaughenhoupt and that Mary Beth Cook said there is currently no prohibition against parking a gasoline car in a charging spot.

The entire discussion lasts about nine minutes in the video below.

Proposed amendment language:
One electric vehicle charging device shall be provided, at a minimum, when the required parking exceeds 25 spaces for any commercial, industrial or recreational use. An electric vehicle charging station parking space that meets the standards of the ordinance for a parking space will count as a parking space in all respects. Electric vehicle charging devices may be located adjacent to designated parking spaces in a parking lot as long as the devices do not encroach into the required dimensions of the parking space (length/width/height). Devices must be mounted on the wall or on a structure at the end of the space at least 4.5 feet above the parking surface of the space. No charging devices may be placed within the dimensions of a space on the sides or entrance to a space.