Electric Vehicle ChargingConnecting EV Charging Vendors with the Community
June 1st, 2022
Upgrading parking policy is an important step in encouraging electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at commercial and residential developments.
In June 2019, Columbus City Council passed an ordinance to amend Columbus Zoning Code, so that off-street parking spaces dedicated to EV charging and located outside special parking areas will count as a required parking space and not count toward the maximum number of parking spaces. This means that parking spaces that have EV chargers will count the same as a normal parking space. Smart Columbus team members, along with vendors, developers and community members suggested the policy change to ensure that both neighborhoods and businesses could benefit from EV chargers.
The City of Columbus has minimum and maximum parking space calculations and requirements for developers in order to accommodate the amount of parking needed at a business based on the industry, location and size. Prior to the EV ordinance, a business or development could install EV charging stations, but if spaces were restricted to be for EV charging and not for general parking, they didn’t count toward parking space calculations.
The goal of the ordinance is to avoid too few or too many parking spaces that could impede other businesses and residents.
“The ordinance allows those spaces to be restricted to just EV charging use, while at the same time still counting for the number of required parking spaces. We want the zoning code to be flexible and supportive of the next generation of transportation,” says Paul Freedman, manager of code development for the City of Columbus Building and Zoning Services Department (BZS). “That's the reason for the code to ensure that parking for a commercial venture or building does not adversely impact a neighborhood or additional commercial ventures in an area.”
Outreach and Buy-In
Before the ordinance was passed, Smart Columbus worked with vendors, private developers and the City of Columbus to understand the challenges of installing EV charging in parking spaces.
In 2017, Smart Columbus held an EV charging expo, connecting EV charging vendors to developers and other community partners. With more than 160 vendors and partners in attendance, the team began to hear that the City of Columbus needed to revise parking rules in order to encourage EV charging growth. Norman “Bud” Braughton, project manager for Smart Columbus, says that developers and vendors began pointing out the conflict between encouraging “EV-only” parking and the city’s existing code.
“At Smart Columbus we thought that we needed to contact the Building and Zoning Services Department and get their help with this issue,” Braughton says. “The department was able to tell us of the challenges that they run into and how the codes are used to make the city better.”
The Smart Columbus EV Policy workgroup, consisting of representatives from the City of Columbus, The Columbus Partnership, GPD Group and Clean Fuels Ohio, was formed to align ideas about EV policy change in the region.
Over six months, Smart Columbus EV Policy workgroup convened city departments, residential and development groups, and vendors to collect feedback on what was needed to revise the existing code. Partners that provided input included the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), the City of Columbus Department of Neighborhoods, area commissions and BZS’ Building Service Review Commission, which includes developers, engineers and design professionals. Ultimately, having feedback and buy-in from public and private stakeholders allowed Smart Columbus to create a game plan, making it easier to provide the majority of information needed for the code revision to take place.
“One of the partners that we work through is the Department of Neighborhoods, asking for input from the area commissions throughout the city. That usually takes at least 30, sometimes 45 days before we get any feedback since they only meet once a month,” Freedman says. “We sent the language out to all the area commissions and they submitted it to their members to provide us with feedback.”
Columbus Policy Compared to Other Cities
Columbus is one of a few Midwestern cities to update parking policy to include language on EV charging, though several cities on the East and West coasts have moved forward with policy changes. Many cities have changed parking policies to incentivize and encourage EV charging, allowing for EV charging parking spaces to be counted as more than one spot, an extra incentive to charging.
For example, the City of Atlanta states that parking spots that have EV charging can be counted as two required parking spots. Columbus stakeholders originally considered a 2:1 policy like Atlanta’s, but after convening stakeholders, it was agreed upon that it could change the way our neighborhoods are developed.
The 1:1 parking ordinance in Columbus was developed because the city didn’t want to overprovide incentives to developers for adding EV charging. Also, because different businesses have different parking requirements, the city didn’t want to incentivize one business sector over another.
The Smart Columbus EV policy working group was also concern that under a 2:1, policy developers could install EV charging stations in order to reduce the amount of parking they would have to provide. That could impact how the neighborhood looks, with more bars and restaurants instead of other businesses in a neighborhood due to less overall parking. The 1:1 policy removes any disincentive and doesn’t overprovide incentives that could lead to other development behaviors.
Looking Forward to More EV Charging Policy
Since the ordinance passed, Smart Columbus has worked with stakeholders throughout the region to make sure they are aware of it, with hopes that the ordinance can inform policies in other municipalities.
“We want to make sure that other agencies and people across the region know what the City of Columbus is doing, and that way they can follow suit,” Braughton says. “Municipalities can adopt polices developed by their neighbors, and we want to begin and make this available in our region. We want to expand how many other cities are aware of this policy, not just in the Columbus region, but throughout the Midwest.”
Braughton adds that stakeholders are also working toward recommending an “EV ready” policy to require new developments to have EV charging infrastructure installed into parking areas during construction and a “Right to Charge” policy that would allow multi-unit development owners EV charging options. The process of collecting feedback for these policies will take longer to make sure all stakeholders can be heard, Braughton says.
The Smart Columbus EV Policy workgroup is seeing in other parts of the country that “Right to Charge” polices tend to be a state-level issue so there are significantly more discussions with stakeholders. Right to Charge will most likely involve private sector developers, a variety of homeowners associations and various other public and private sector representatives. Smart Columbus is working closely on this with agencies such as Clean Fuels Ohio. Ample time for engagement is in order to make sure policy recommendations benefit not just Columbus, but the entire state.
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