Council to talk changing EV charging ordinance sparking concerns

Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 6:53 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - When the St. Louis County Council meets Tuesday night, the agenda includes discussion about changing an electric car charging ordinance that’s sparking controversy.

News 4 Investigates recently exposed how the ordinance could drive businesses away. Now some county leaders are calling that a mistake they want to fix.

“We just want to make the legislation a little more small business friendly,” said Kelli Dunaway, who proposed the original ordinance. “I don’t want to hurt small businesses and I don’t want to hurt people. I just want to make sure that we’re taking the steps that we need to take to prepare our infrastructure for what’s coming.”

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.”

Business owners claim the “change in use” clause could lead to dozens of charging stations in some parking lots, especially at plazas and strip malls where stores coming and going is common.

Councilman Mark Harder is proposing repealing the ordinance, which he claimed had “unintended consequences” in part citing News 4 Investigates reporting.

“This is just one more stumbling block that keeps businesses from opening up and wanting to open up in St. Louis County,” Harder said. “That’s what you get when you don’t involve a lot of good decision making on the front end, now you’ve got to go back and change it.”

Harder says this is something that shouldn’t be decided by county leaders and wants business to have a choice.

“Do it on your own dime, create your own charging stations,” Harder said. “We didn’t require a gas station on every corner to satisfy the drivers of those vehicles.”

Councilwoman Dunaway sees it differently, saying this is a case where government should step in since the market isn’t moving fast enough.

“I wish we could all just work together to make this work instead of fighting each other tooth and nail to either have it in a way that it’s not going to do any good or not have it at all,” Dunaway explained.

Instead of a do-over Dunaway is proposing changes to her ordinance, which include taking out the “change in use” clause and adding dozens of exceptions.

“Restaurants, night clubs, bars, there are 4 paragraphs worth of exceptions so we’re just really limiting the EV legislation to big parking lots and places where people are going to be spending a lot of time,” Dunaway added.

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.

The proposed state bill was voted out of the House and is now being weighed by the Senate.