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Durango code change snubs fossil fuels, ushers in electric vehicle chargers

Gas stations, car dealerships and auto repair no longer allowed to develop downtown
Sarah Kelly charges her Nissan Leaf electric car in November 2017 at one of four charging stations in the parking lot of Mercy Regional Medical Center. Durango is making changes to development codes to allow for more electric vehicle chargers to be developed throughout the city. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

In alignment with the city’s Electric Vehicle Readiness Plan, Durango City Council voted this week to change the city’s land-use and development codes that govern vehicle and heavy-equipment uses downtown.

“We’re making significant advances in changing our carbon footprint and our environment,” said Mayor Kim Baxter.

Changes to the codes make it so development of businesses with motor vehicle and heavy equipment uses are no longer allowed downtown. Examples of the types of developments no longer allowed downtown include gas stations, car dealerships, car rental businesses and car repair shops.

“Any existing uses would be legal, nonconforming, so they would be allowed. They just can’t expand that use,” said Savannah Lytle, planner with the city of Durango.

Amendments to codes also decoupled electric vehicle charging stations from fueling uses. Before Tuesday’s decision, EV chargers and fueling stations had the same use classification under the city’s land-use development codes.

“Fueling stations and charging stations were classified together. So any code that applied to a gas station also applied to a charging station,” Lytle said.

By giving different use definitions to fuel stations and charging stations, businesses and residents looking to incorporate EV chargers on their property will have an easier time developing.

“We want to allow for more charging stations in the city, so we separated it and gave charging stations their own definition,” Lytle said.

The city’s new use definition for a charging station is a public or private parking space that is enabled with electric vehicle supply equipment for the purpose of delivering energy to an electric vehicle.

Fueling stations are defined as a building or surfaced area where vehicles may be refueled. Fueling stations dispense fossil or combustible fuels.

EV chargers are now allowed as a principal or accessory use in all commercial, business park and light-industrial zone districts.

New developments that are 15,000 square feet or larger are also now required to include EV chargers.

“We have a grocery store that's coming into Three Springs that might have been required to put in a station, but I don’t know if they’re large enough,” Lytle said. “Fifteen thousand square feet are really your big-box stores like Walmart or Home Depot.”

Additionally, new hotel or motel developments will have to designate 10% of parking as EV-ready parking, or place charging stations on 5% of parking spaces.

“EV ready means they’re going to run electrical out there instead of putting in stations,” Lytle said.

njohnson@durangoherald.com

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