Be like Gretzky when it comes to EV charging

Bainbridge Island Planning Commissioner Sean Sullivan paraphrased NHL legend Wayne Gretzky at a recent meeting.

“Don’t worry about where the puck is now, but where it’s going to be,” he said.

The comment was made in connection to a discussion on an Electric Vehicle Charging Zoning Code Amendment. He wondered where the city came up with the numbers for the proposed ordinance.

In general, for new construction, it calls for 10% of total parking spaces for electric vehicles, 30% to be EV ready and 20% to be EV capable. The numbers are less for building expansions.

Autumn Salamack, the city’s climate mitigation offficer, said the numbers came from similar laws in nearby jurisdictions.

“We don’t want to overbuild too quickly” before the demand is there, she said, adding the infrastructure needs to be in the ground and ready to go.

During an hour-long discussion, the commission talked about a number of ideas, but no recommendation was approved.

Salamack opened the session saying transportation is a major cause of air pollution, and the city’s Climate Action Plan targets infrastructure for EVs to help reduce gas emissions by 25% in 2 1/2 years and 90% by 2045, compared to 2014 levels.

By 2045, 80% of vehicles on BI need to be EV or plug-in hybrid. So, the city needs more charging stations, Salamack said.

State law requires EV charging stations in parking lots starting next year. They have to be capable of charging EVs, not necessarily be able to charge them at that time.

The proposed city law does recommend incentives for developers to put in EV charging, including the ability to reduce the number of parking spaces.

Commission chair Sarah Blossom said additional incentives could be discussed in the future.

The commissioners discussed what to do to encourage developers to put in more charging stations earlier than later.

Senior planner Jennifer Sutton said the city could add a sentence to the ordinance that would reduce future expectations if that was the case. “It’s not set in stone,” she said. “It can be amended at any time.”

The expensive costs of EV charging was brought up, and Salamack agreed it’s a concern. But it only makes sense for developers to lay the groundwork for EVs because, “It’s only going to get more expensive.”

Salamack said the ordinance addresses an equity issue because it’s easy for those in a single-family home to charge their EVs, but much harder for those in a multi-family setting.

As for the city’s focus, she said it would be that 100% of development be EV ready. “That would be the primary goal in an ideal world,” she said. “Then it’s a plug-and-play scenario.”

Blossom said there should be an incentive for higher-power charging stations. Salamack agreed, as some can charge a vehicle in an hour or two, while others can take eight hours. Sutton said that’s already in the ordinance.

Director’s report

Patty Charnis, director of planning and community development, also gave her report. She said staff is working on a shoreline management plan to make it easier to follow and implement. She also said the Comprehensive Plan process is behind other jurisdictions because of delays on other plans, which is hurting some funding options.

And she said consultants are working on a Housing Action Plan, putting out an online survey for public input. We want to “hear from a lot of different people,” she said, adding they want to collect good data on housing needs for an assessment that is the first step.

Public comment

The city was asked to explain the Comp Plan process.

Sutton said the city received five requests, normally from property owners or developers. Every three years that happens.

She added the city looked at a request for Lynwood Center Sept. 8. It will look at one for property on Erickson north of Winslow Way Sept. 22. It will look at three for Puget Sound Energy property Oct. 13.

There will be a public hearing on all five Oct. 27.

The Planning Commission will then make a recommendation to the City Council for a final decision in late November at the earliest.