Commission revises EV charging ordinance

By Erin Achenbach, News Editor

The St. Louis County Planning Commission approved several modifications to the electric vehicle charging zoning ordinance last week. 

The commission unanimously approved the changes to the electric vehicle charging code at an executive session Feb. 14, including removing the requirement that a site plan is required for all charging stations being installed in existing parking lots. The code applies to unincorporated St. Louis County. 

“Vehicle charging stations normally are using existing parking space, and while there may be a small kiosk where you can put your credit card in … these are not considered structures, so if you’re just adding the electric vehicle ready parking spaces to an existing parking lot, planning would not necessarily see them,” Intermittent Planner Debi Salberg said.

The electric vehicle charging code specifies that any time a parking lot is resurfaced or remodeled at an existing building, or that building’s use changes, it would trigger requirements for electric vehicle ready and electric vehicle parking spaces. Planning normally does not see plans when someone restripes a parking lot or if a building modification does not expand the footprint of an existing building, said Salberg. 

The Department of Transportation and Public Works would be in charge of ensuring compliance with existing parking lots. Planning would still see all parking lot plans for new developments and require electric vehicle ready and electric vehicle parking spaces be shown on the site plan for new developments.

In October, the St. Louis County Council passed a bill requiring all commercial, entertainment and institutional locations undergoing construction or renovation to set aside a certain percentage of parking spaces for electric vehicle charging stations. The bill passed 4-3 along party lines and requires all parking lots undergoing renovations to set aside at least 2 percent of the parking spaces for electric vehicle charges, while parking lots of 10 or more spaces have to have 10 percent be “electric vehicle ready spaces.” The legislation does exempt gas stations. 

“This is something that we will learn as we go,” Commissioner William Ballard said. “As these new EVs come on board, the demand is going to require a different type of response.” 

The electric vehicle charging code also states that electric vehicle charging spaces have to be in a convenient place, although Salberg conceded she did not know what that meant exactly. 

Commissioner Gary Elliot said that the chargers at a Schnucks in Eureka were right when customers pulled into the parking lot and not close to any building. 

“I think as electric vehicles become more prevalent, the consumer will say, ‘These parking spaces should be closer to the building’ and I think the owner and the developer will respond to that,” Salberg said. “The trend seems to be more and more marketing and, I assume, purchasing of electric vehicles, so I think that the demand for these types of parking spaces will grow as the number of electric vehicles on the road increase. The property owners will understand that … they need to be convenient for the customer.” 

There were some questions among commission members about a bill currently being discussed in the Missouri House of Representatives that would block counties and cities from enforcing electric vehicle mandates on businesses. The bill’s sponsor is Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Oakville. According to the legislation, if a city or county wanted to enact an electric vehicle mandate, the county or city would be required to pay for the installation of the chargers. 

“Obviously, the state would trump us but the Planning Department’s charge was to respond to the electric vehicle charging code that was adopted by the County Council,” Salberg said.