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Electric Vehicles

Guide Aims to Ease Zoning Issues for Electric Vehicle Charger Installations

The Sustainable Action Energy Committee, with RMI and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, has published a guide aimed at supporting local officials responsible for planning and zoning decisions for electric vehicle charging stations.

The guide, Planning and Zoning Guidance for Electric Vehicle Charger Deployment, provides information and actionable recommendations that municipalities and other authorities with jurisdiction can use to make local approval processes for siting and installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure clear, predictable, and equitable.

While the authors of the guide identified three major challenges to permitting approval – building and electrical code compliance, planning and zoning review, and the approval process itself – they said that interviews with charging providers indicates that planning and zoning reviews are the greatest bottlenecks to local government permit approval.

Part of the problem is that local plans and zoning ordinances are unclear and do not contain provisions for electric vehicle chargers, resulting in both local authorities and project developers spending unnecessary time and effort on projects, according to the guide.

For instance, municipal planning documents often do not address electric vehicle chargers and the absence can result in little or no regulatory guidance. To address the issue, the guide’s authors recommended that local jurisdictions should address electric vehicle chargers in comprehensive plans, supporting plans, zoning codes, and design guidelines, and they should conduct an inclusive planning process, paying particular attention to residents who do not have access to dedicated off-street parking.

Another challenge identified in the guide is that zoning codes often do not reference or properly categorize electric vehicle supply equipment, misclassifying charging stations as traditional gas fueling stations. Or local authorities may conclude that a property is not zoned for hosting a charging station, or that a zoning classification for a charging station does not even exist.

In response, the guide’s authors recommended that ordinances should classify electric vehicle chargers as an accessory use to a site, not as a traditional fueling station, and as allowable in all zones. And, in instances where electric vehicle chargers are a primary use, the ordinance should indicate that they are allowed as an approved use that is not subject to a conditional use permit and zoning review, and subject to clearly articulated design standards.

The guide also identifies parking as a challenge to the siting of charging stations. Many local governments require that developers provide a minimum number of parking spaces for projects and, in some cases, local officials believe that converting a standard space to a dedicated electric vehicle charging space reduces minimum parking and violates parking requirements.

The guide recommends that local governments should allow stalls with electric vehicle charging and charger-ready parking spaces to count toward minimum parking mandates, and wheelchair-accessible charging spaces should be counted as at least two standard automobile parking spaces.

The guide also addresses accessibility regulations, which the authors say are still evolving, and the readiness of properties to accept charging infrastructure, noting that the least expensive time to install electric vehicle charging is during building construction.

The guide also addresses the challenges that design, aesthetics and equipment location challenges present, and makes recommendations such as local jurisdictions should also provide clear guidelines on all design and aesthetic requirements and that design and aesthetic guidance should not exceed the requirements for other amenities or infrastructure in such zones.

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