Brakes put on electric vehicle charging station mandate in York: Here's why

·5 min read

YORK, Maine — A new ordinance for electric vehicle charging stations will not go before voters this year, as the Selectboard voted against forwarding the proposal to the November referendum ballot.

Three of the five Selectboard members said they opposed requiring electric vehicle (EV) charging stations for new developments and expanded parking lots as mandated in the proposed ordinance presented by the Planning Board. Monday was the second of two public hearings held this summer on the ordinance, culminating with a 3-2 vote to reject putting the ordinance before voters.

A new ordinance for electric vehicle charging stations will not go before York voters this year
A new ordinance for electric vehicle charging stations will not go before York voters this year

Those who voted against the ordinance argued the market should naturally lead business owners and developers to include the charging stations so the town would not need to force them to pick up the cost.

“The capitalist I am, I look at these ordinances and I say, if we’re going to be making this many EV cars, the private sector will put them in,” Selectboard member Mike Estes said, “Because of their ability for them to make profit and ability for them to service their customers.”

Multi-family dwellings, commercial properties would have been impacted

The ordinance would have required all new or reconstructed parking structures to install one or more EV charging station depending on the size of the lot or reconstruction project. For existing lots with 20 or more spaces, the stations would be required if the lot increased by 30 percent parking capacity or more, according to the proposal.

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Single-family homes would have been exempt, but multi-family dwellings, municipal buildings, schools, medical facilities and tourist lodgings like motels and hotels would need to have 10% of their spaces be EV charging stations. Office uses would need 3%, while industrial and other permitted commercial uses would need to offer 1% of parking as EV charging stations.

The ordinance would have the stations be at least Level 2. Level 3 stations are more powerful and charge faster but are considerably more expensive.

Proponents not giving up on EV charging stations

Planning Board Chairman Wayne Boardman, also a member of the York Energy Steering Committee, said the Planning Board will soon start the process of organizing another ordinance proposal that could go before voters in May 2023. The proposed ordinance fell in line with the York Climate Action plan that was passed by voters this past May, which called for the expansion of EV charging stations to reduce carbon emissions.

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“It was a disappointment,” Boardman said. “The Planning Board is just going to have to discuss a modification we plan to make to put another one forward for the May vote.”

The ordinance received support from residents like Harry Mussman, also a member of the Energy Steering Committee. Mussman said electric vehicles were “one of the easiest things” residents can do to limit their carbon footprint, but that more stations would be needed to encourage residents to buy them.

“To transition to EVs in York, we need chargers available to everyone,” Mussman said. “We need them sooner rather than later.”

Planning Board Vice Chair Kathleen Kluger argued it was similar to any other requirement for developers building in town.

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“This ordinance is for new surfaces. It’s like any other ordinance we have for any other thing,” Kluger said during the hearing.

Selectboard members Marylin McLaughlin and Kinley Gregg voted for advancing the ordinance, McLaughlin saying the ordinance was “not an overreach” for residents looking to forward the Climate Action Plan.

Palmer said he was close to supporting the ordinance but believed requiring full charging stations was a step too far. He said he would consider supporting the ordinance if it only required the conduits be installed so business owners had the option to bring in stations down the line.

“I would support it if it was just the conduit, but I don’t think I do support it as it's written,” Palmer said.

Boardman and Kluger said they wanted the voters to decide whether to approve the ordinance. However, Palmer said it was the Selectboard’s responsibility to vet proposals before sending them to the voters.

“I think when it’s an ordinance and it impacts a smaller segment of our town, it’s incumbent upon the board to make sure that we really support the ordinance before we send it forward,” Palmer said.

Boardman is still optimistic the Selectboard members who opposed the ordinance are open to a compromise on a future ordinance.

“The Selectboard has some differences on the execution of the ordinance or the procedures, but I don’t think they’re against expansion of opportunities for EV charging in the community,” Boardman said. He added that discussing the issue in public could encourage builders and business owners to consider EV charging stations on their own.

“We hope also just getting this issue in public and publicly discussed, that maybe developers will see the advantage of doing it themselves,” Boardman said.

Susan Glick, a member of the group York Ready for Climate Action, agreed with Boardman Wednesday that the vote was a disappointment. However, she said her group is hopeful about a future ordinance regarding EV charging stations in York and is actively working on their next step.

“We think we have an excellent idea, and we’re working to refine it,” Glick said. “We will be back.”

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: York ME board rejects mandate for electric vehicle charging stations