Concerns sparking over St. Louis electric vehicle charging stations

Proposed state law could put up roadblock for county, city ordinance for EV charging stations
Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 9:47 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. (KMOV) - Electric car charging stations are sparking concern in the St. Louis area as some businesses claim a new county ordinance aimed at going green could put their bottom line in the red.

It’s a topic that’s now being debated at the state capitol. Missouri lawmakers are weighing a recently proposed bill that would require cities and counties that pass ordinances requiring electric car charging stations to shoulder the cost.

Last year, St. Louis City and St. Louis County passed ordinances with various requirements for both charging stations and pre-wired parking spots where stations could be added down the line.

The county’s ordinance is broader than the city’s and some businesses tell News 4 it’s stopping them from opening up shop.

Mary Kane says she’s currently in limbo trying to move her print shop, Dog-a-Boni Studio, to the county.

“We have been hit hard,” Kane said. “It took a lot of energy to even say let’s keep going.”

Kane rented a space in the back of Concord Plaza in Sout County. She says she first learned of the ordinance when she applied for her permits. Kane says the county told her she needed to add four spots for charging electric cars in the plaza’s back parking lot, which has about 16 parking spots total.

The St. Louis County ordinance applies to the “unincorporated section.” At a given location, the ordinance requires 10 percent of parking spaces to be wired for electric car chargers, and 2 percent of parking spaces to have charging stations.

According to the ordinance, that applies to “new constructions, major remodels, parking lot reconstruction” and “changes in use or occupancy.” Kane’s print shop used to be a daycare meaning this falls under a “change in use.”

“We’re not making any structural changes, we could just move our equipment right in,” Kane added.

Under the ordinance, shopping plazas could have to add charging stations every time a new shop comes in, which plaza owners tell News 4 is common and can quickly add up to dozens of spots.

“It’s unfair to property owners, to business owners,” said President of Biano Properties Danny Wolk, the owners of Concord Plaza.

Wolk questions if the ordinance was fast-tracked saying in certain parts of the county this requirement could lead to a high concentration of charging stations.

“There are three other centers right in this intersection that would be most likely required to do the same thing, that would place several hundred parking spaces EV ready,” Wolk said, referring to the area around Concord Plaza.

Wolk fears this could drive businesses away and points to the cost of a charging station, which runs upwards of $5,000. That fee doesn’t count the thousands more to set up infrastructure and run wiring which has to be buried under the parking lot.

“In this location, it would most likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Wolk said of the cost he estimates at Concord Plaza.

News 4 brought those concerns to the St. Louis County Council. Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway proposed the ordinance. She never responded to requests for an interview.

Council Chair Rita Heard Days said she’s listening to the concerns and is ready for the ordinance to be revisited.

“If there’s anything we’ve done that will inadvertently affect them negatively, I think that it is appropriate to do a look at that again and see where we can make some compromises,” Heard Days said.

Heard Days voted for the ordinance and says she doesn’t want it scrapped, just modified.

“I think this is the wave of the future,” Heard Days added. “We don’t want people to avoid us knowing that we don’t have that technology.”

There’s a chance the county could also have to take into account finding a way to pay for the technology.

Republican State Rep. Jim Murphy proposed a bill that would require cities and counties that pass electric vehicle charging ordinances to pay for all costs from installing to maintaining them.

“This kind of is a bill for the rich,” Murphy said. “Right now, our undeserved community isn’t driving electric cars, yet their businesses would have to install these electric charging centers.”

Murphy said his idea for the law sparked out of the concerns he saw in St. Louis County.

“One for every 10 parking spaces that would virtually kill most small businesses and empty most of our shopping centers in South County,” Murphy said. “The free market will take care of itself, if it’s worth doing it will be done.”

News 4 asked Heard Days if she thought the county would be willing to help foot the bill for the charging stations.

“I don’t think we’re in a position to do that at this particular point in looking at the budget,” Heard Days answered. “We do not have the wherewithal to fund these.”

Unless something changes, Mary Kane says she has to put the brakes on her plans or be prepared to be move on.

“If this doesn’t get ironed out we will have to move totally somewhere else,” Kane said.

The proposed state law wouldn’t just affect St. Louis County. Last year, St. Louis City passed an ordinance requiring electric car charging stations for new construction.

The proposed bill is a step closer to becoming law. It was passed by the House and is now being weighed by the State Senate.