Jeramey Jannene

City Creating Zoning Code For EV Chargers

City anticipates surge in electric vehicles and could get federal money for charging stations.

By - Aug 23rd, 2021 04:30 pm
Electric car charging station. (CC0 Public Domain)

Electric car charging station. (CC0 Public Domain)

With an expected surge in the number of electric vehicles, and with Congress considering an infrastructure bill that includes billions for EV charging stations, Milwaukee officials are looking to codify how and where charging equipment should be placed.

“Our role is really just trying to get ahead of the curve,” said Department of City Development principal planner Ed Richardson to members of the City Plan Commission on Monday afternoon.

The city’s zoning code does not reference electric vehicles currently, leaving Department of Neighborhood Services without guidance or rules on how to handle requests to install electric charging stations. A number of new apartment buildings and private residents have added charging equipment to indoor garages.

The revision would allow electric vehicle charging supply equipment, namely chargers, to be installed alongside any legal parking space. But the equipment’s placement must not block a pedestrian walkway, bicycle parking or sightlines near intersections.

Landscaping would still be required and electric distribution equipment would need to comply with existing screening requirements.

Public charging stations could not be constructed on residential properties. Multi-unit properties, including apartment buildings, could share chargers between residents.

But the zoning change would allow for sole-purpose electric charging facilities, similar to a gas station, to be constructed on non-residential properties.

“We just wanted something in the code to be prepared if that happens,” said Richardson.

“It’s not profitable enough for people to create new electric vehicle charging stations,” said DCD planning services specialist Forrest Elliott.

The revised code would allow the hypothetical stations to be constructed in mid-block lots, in line with parking lots, but not on corner lots without Board of Zoning Appeals (BOZA) approval. Any station located on land zoned as residential or part of the city’s designated downtown area would require BOZA approval.

The zoning code revision, which will ultimately require Common Council approval, does not add a requirement for charging equipment.

Earlier this year the City of Madison adopted a charging equipment requirement. One percent of parking spaces in new multifamily buildings and some commercial properties must have charging equipment and 10% of spaces must be wired to accommodate chargers in the future.

The city’s Environmental Collaboration Office environmental sustainability program coordinator Matt Donath said the city could explore such a requirement in the future, including on city-owned street parking spaces.

The City Plan Commission unanimously endorsed the proposal.

“I just want to commend Forrest and Matt for getting ahead of this,” said Commissioner Allyson Nemec, an electric vehicle owner.

Commission chair Stephanie Bloomingdale, a labor leader backing the Interstate 94 expansion project, praised the zoning change and the perceived environmental benefits of electric vehicles.

The code change does not mention specific equipment or vehicle manufacturers.

Council President Cavalier Johnson and Alderman Nik Kovac are co-sponsoring the zoning change.

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