LARGO — By 2040, nearly 60% of passenger vehicle sales will be electric and 35% of cars in Florida will be electrified, according to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a nonprofit organization that focuses on the transition to cleaner forms of energy.
The city of Largo, which has made it a goal to transition the entire community to 100% renewable energy by 2050, wants to get ahead of that curve. One way it plans to do so, city leaders have decided, is by ramping up efforts to install and incentivize the installation of electric vehicle charging stations.
“Within Tampa Bay, it’s estimated that between now and 2025, which is a very short time frame, we’re going to need approximately 100 additional public charging stations to keep up with the pace of EV adoption in the community,” said Laura Thomas, the city’s sustainability program administrator, during a May 11 work session, adding there are about 20 in the city now. “So, we need 100 new stations a year publicly available. That’s a fairly rapid pace that we want to make sure we’re keeping up with as a community.”
Commissioners say they want the private sector — especially developers of multifamily complexes — to keep pace as well. To do so, city staff offered two options on how to ensure both residential and commercial developments are equipped to support electric vehicles in the future.
One was a phased approach that tested out implementation of minimum standards in the three activity centers first before rolling them out citywide by 2024-25.
The second was a more aggressive tactic that would result in citywide standards by 2022-23.
“It (the first option) is a little bit slower, but it is phased, so it gives us the opportunity to see how it’s going to work in the activity centers and multimodal corridors where we really want to focus a lot of the development anyway,” said Alicia Parinello, the city’s acting planning manager.
By the end of the work session, commissioners directed city staff to take that approach, but also expedite it if possible.
Mayor Woody Brown said rolling the standards out in the activity centers first makes sense because that is where most major housing complexes will likely be developed in the future.
Thomas said the focus is on housing developers and activity centers, which include downtown and areas near the Largo Mall and U.S.19/Roosevelt Boulevard, because studies show 80% of people charge their vehicles at home.
Vice Mayor Jamie Robinson would like to see minimum standards implemented immediately, adding that developers at least need to build with the future in mind.
“We should have an absolute standard for EV capable,” Robinson said, referring to having the infrastructure in place for future charging stations. “I think everything should have some sort of standard for EV capable, at the very minimum.”
He also said the city needs to utilize incentives to encourage developers to build as many EV charging stations as possible.
“The incentives we have to have,” he said. “Maybe do a whole list of incentives. You can do a density bonus, you can do a reduction in parking. I think having several options or multiple choices for people.”
Brown also said incentives were a good idea, some of which could be rolled out citywide right away.
“I’d like to look at single-family home incentives as well,” he said, adding that they could be used for making homes both ready for electric vehicles and solar panels.
Another reason officials want to expedite the process is because of the state Legislature’s mounting efforts to take power away from local governments.
Robinson said he wouldn’t be surprised if developers started lobbying legislators to stop municipalities from introducing standards.
If that day comes, commissioners said it would be good to have an ordinance in place in case the state allows grandfathering of existing regulations.
City staff and developers had a forum April 21 and Parinello said they haven’t been as resistant as some might think.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of pushback,” she said, noting that they like the idea of incentives tied to increased density or reduction in parking.
Constructing projects with EV-ready spots also makes sense economically, Parinello said, citing estimates that adding them post-construction can be 75% higher.
Lantower, for instance, is constructing a four-story, 272-unit complex with five EV charging stations off U.S. Highway 19 just south of Whitney Road. Currently, the city only requires one in that area.
If Robinson has his way, even that might not be enough. The vice mayor said he would like to follow the lead of St. Petersburg, which is pushing to require commercial and multifamily developments to make 15% to 20% of its spaces be EV ready, which includes an outlet, and 2% to 6% of its spaces to include charging stations.
Parinello said the next step would be outreach with stakeholders and developing standards and incentives for the activity centers, which could be brought to the commission for review in November or December.