Tulare County speeding up process for electric vehicle charging stations

Tulare County Board of Supervisors approves first read of county code update to permit electric vehicle charging stations in a timely manner

VISALIA – Cities and now the county are preparing for environmentally-friendly solutions to greenhouse gas emissions by establishing red tape regulations for electric vehicle charging stations.

A week after the city of Farmersville reviewed guidelines for their ordinance, Tulare County is now setting up their own rules for those interested in purchasing charging stations throughout the county for their property, whether it be residential, business or otherwise. Through the efforts of the resource management agency (RMA) and Tulare County Fire Department, a new section is being added to the Tulare County Ordinance Code to provide a quick permitting process for the purchase of electric vehicle charging stations.

The quicker the charging stations are deployed in the state, the sooner California’s air quality improves, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced and the state receives local economic benefits. According to RMA planning director Aaron Bock, the new section – the Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Review Process – follows permitting guidelines as they are outlined in state Assembly Bill (AB) 1236 and AB 970. It adds a prompt reviewing process of permits for those who have applied. The assembly bills were developed to speed up the process of charging station infrastructure to help in advancing the deployment of zero emission vehicles.

The first reading of the draft ordinance was on Nov. 1 at the Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting, presented by Bock and Tulare County Fire Department division chief Kevin Riggi. The ordinance’s adoption date is set for Nov. 29 and will go into effect beginning January.

The permitting process for the charging stations will require a just over a two-week wait period, according to Bock. Regardless if someone wants a single charging station or multiple stations, if their application is properly submitted and they don’t require an additional special use permit for zoning ordinance, the wait period will be the same.

“If somebody does come in for a standalone charging station permit, they’ll be guaranteed to get that out of here in 15 days,” Bock said. “The whole idea is to streamline it to make it as easy as possible.”

In addition to the permitting process for the charging stations, updates were also made to building regulations in the ordinance. The updates to the building codes also called for updates to the county’s fire code, as building safety and fire safety often go hand-in-hand.

“Anytime you change the building code, there’s always a fire code that’s going to have to match it,” Riggi said.

The ordinance will supply a change to intermodal shipping containers, which are often found on sea ships, so they can be repurposed for use as buildings designed in accordance with California building code. According to Bock, people in the state have taken interest in using the containers as buildings and homes and some people in the county have been doing this as well. He said this change was made to the ordinance to support container use in Camp Nelson, to replace a cabin that burned down in the Sequoia Complex fire in 2020. 

Another notable change to the code redefines elevated photovoltaic support structures, which are the solar panels typically found over parking lots. The structures are now defined as independent support structures, whereas before they were treated as any other shade-type structure. Bock said this eases the process of differentiating the support structures from shade structures. In accordance with the ordinance, the structures must be intended for secondary use, like shade or parking, and have a minimum height of seven feet and six inches.

Additionally, efficiency dwelling units, otherwise known as studio apartments, have had their size reduced from 220 square feet to 190 square feet. When it comes to studios, Bock said the state is likely setting a smaller minimum standard to address existing difficulties with establishing specific distances between things like bathroom, kitchen, stove and etc. in studio apartments.

Another notable change to the ordinance is the addition of a new section to the fire code in preparation for the growing supply of lithium-ion battery storage facilities throughout the state. According to Riggi, the fire code update has implemented a whole new section on lithium-ion storage. He said the county is getting a supply of lithium-ion battery storage facilities, and Southern California Edison currently has two major projects in Tulare County.

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