There is a pilot program for EV chargers in Fairfax County that encourages the use of electric vehicles. The county is adopting this program to promote sustainability and economic prosperity in Fairfax while limiting greenhouse gas emissions. It’s working with condominium and homeowners associations and large, multi-family apartment buildings to realize its vision.
The Pilot Program for EV Chargers in Fairfax County
On October 31, 2022, the county’s Board of Supervisors exempted every electrical, building, and sign permit fee for EV chargers in Fairfax County. The exemption has been made effective for a trial period of 18 months. This pilot program, called Charge Up Fairfax, is made to support the county’s Carbon-Free Fairfax initiative. The goal is to create a future for Fairfax County that is sustainable, healthy, and economically successful while eliminating greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also in line with the Countywide Strategic Plan.
After the trial period reaches 12 months, personnel will report updates to the Board of Supervisors. They will inform the board whether the fee elimination successfully encouraged the use of EVC equipment. Moreover, once the 18-month trial period is up, the Board of Supervisors may extend the trial period even further.
With these exemptions in place, the county hopes that 15% of all registrations of light-duty vehicles will be EVs by 2030. By 2050, the hope is that this percentage will rise to 42%. This is in accordance with the Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) the county previously adopted. In May 2022, less than 1% of registrations for light-duty vehicles were EVs before this pilot program was created.
Permits, Policies, and Rules
Do you need a permit to install an EV charger? The county has eliminated permit fees for electronic vehicle charging stations (EVCS) to encourage people to use electric vehicles. However, installing new EV charging stations in Fairfax County still requires a permit. This is following the Uniform Statewide Building Code. The holder of the permit must also be subject to re-inspection fees.
In addition, freestanding charging stations may also need sign permits. For example, if the charging station has an advertisement, it may need a sign permit. On the other hand, plugging stand-alone charging stations into pre-existing outlets requires no permits.
Apart from these, every EVCS must comply with the applicable zoning requirements, such as the zoning provisions for EV charging spaces. Some of these requirements involve the type of EV chargers allowable in residential developments and how much they may interfere in the sites they’re installed in, among others. Compliance with these requirements may limit the number of parking issues HOAs may face once the program is implemented.
Partnering With Homeowners Associations
Homeowners living in planned communities do not always have a private space or garage to install an EVCS. The pilot program may not be as effective without a proper plan in place. Thus, the Board of Supervisors has also considered partnering with local homeowners associations and multi-family communities to support the program.
The aim is to support these communities and help them install EVCSs in common areas. These may include locations such as parking garages and HOA parking spots. Their intent on installing EV chargers in HOAs in Fairfax County will help solve the issue of at-home charging.
The Charge Up Fairfax program would help associations identify viable locations to set up these charging stations. Moreover, they can also offer technical support and even financial assistance. These grants would help reimburse a third of the qualified expenses of up to $5,000 for these communities. Meanwhile, some disadvantaged or highly vulnerable communities can apply for two grants, with a total reimbursement of up to $10,000.
The county considered partnering with the Reston Association for the pilot program in late September 2022. It is the largest HOA within Fairfax County. The association discussed the program and gave feedback regarding their community’s EV needs at a meeting in November 2022.
During the first phase, the county will survey the community and identify possible charging locations. Afterward, they will gather data and review community engagement. They will then choose a contractor and find the necessary equipment.
Virginia passed a bill 2020 granting EV owners the right to access charging stations. It also blocks condominium associations and homeowners associations from restricting the installation of charging stations on resident-owned property under certain conditions.
While the state has removed this legal obstacle, there are still several challenges to installing EV chargers in Fairfax County. This new program aims to help common interest communities overcome those challenges. In this way, the county can realize its vision of a healthy, prosperous, and sustainable future.
Roadblocks to the Initiative
The program to install EV chargers in Fairfax County faces several challenges. While the county has been supporting communities by imposing exemptions and providing some financial support, other obstacles remain. These include the costly nature of installing and maintaining EV charging stations. There are also strict local laws that regulate the installation and use of EV charging stations.
In addition, several physical and technical challenges hinder the initiative. For example, communities must consult electrical contractors and local utility distribution services to ensure adequate support. Communities must also determine the ownership structure of these EV charging stations. If the HOA or COA maintains ownership, they must also determine how the costs should be reallocated between residents and guests.
Furthermore, not all homeowners associations will have the resources to utilize the program. Smaller associations and multi-family communities may face different issues. They might also need to prioritize other pressing issues than EV charging stations.
The Key to a Brighter Future
Charge Up Fairfax aims to make installing EV chargers in Fairfax County much easier. The county seeks to create a brighter future for all residents by providing allowances, exemptions, and assistance. This pilot program is also one of the first of this kind in the country. Once the program is at full speed, only time will tell if the initiative has successfully promoted the use of electronic vehicles.
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