West Chester Borough Council talks EV stations, short term rentals and a sewer clog – Daily Local


West Chester Borough Council discussed mandating EV chargers. (BILL RETTEW/MEDIANEWS GROUP)

WEST CHESTER — With no voting or work sessions in January, Borough Council rolled up its sleeves and got back to work, this week.

Council addressed charging stations, a clogged drain and short term rentals.

During Wednesday’s conditional use hearing, Borough Council voted unanimously to require builders to include electric vehicle charging stations during new construction. Patrick McCoy was absent and Brain McGinnis was unable to vote remotely due to a computer glitch.

A borough EV gets a charge at Borough Hall. (BILL RETTEW/MEDIANEWS GROUP)
A borough EV gets a charge at Borough Hall. (BILL RETTEW/MEDIANEWS GROUP)

“Borough Council desires to encourage and promote the deployment of EV charging infrastructure and to establish regulations for the deployment of electric vehicle charging stations,” reads the ordinance.

Sustainability Director Will Williams told council that one in ten cars now sold in America is electric powered and EV vehicles make us healthier and more peaceful, particularly for low-income residents.

Williams suggested that the EV stations be safe, well-lit and Handicapped accessible.

Charging an EV at Borough Hall. (BILL RETTEW/MEDIANEWS GROUP)
Charging an EV at Borough Hall. (BILL RETTEW/MEDIANEWS GROUP)

The borough planning commission recently recommended to not adopt the ordinance, while some members suggested that the borough instead incentivize installation.

Electric provider PECO provides an incentive for EV installation.

“PECO will give you $2,000 and is very excited to take business away from Big Oil,” Williams said.

Williams pointed to the “very ambitious” 2017 Clean Energy Resolution adopted unanimously by council as a reason to require EV chargers with new construction.

The resolution calls for 100-percent renewable electricity community-wide by 2035 and 100 percent renewable energy for heating and transportation by 2050.

Councilman Bernie Flynn asked Williams about a Walnut street resident who had found an “ingenious way” of hooking up to a charging station through a lamppost.

“What would happen if every homeowner decided to do that? Flynn asked. “Why is that a bad thing?”

Williams said that it could create a tripping hazard, attract vandals, might be damaged by snowplows, or pedestrians might have to step over wires.

Borough Solicitor Kristin Camp said that the discussed ordinance does not address such an issue but that she would “venture that there is something in your code that prohibits that.”

Councilwoman Sheila Vaccaro voted to adopt the ordinance.

“We need to start somewhere,” she said. “And move forward with good intentions.”

In other news, at Wednesday’s work session, council agreed to make a deal with Spring Hill Realty at Cambridge Square Shopping Center, the location of Rita’s Water Ice.

A clogged sewer pipe was repaired by the shopping center and the borough and the shopping center split the cost. Each paid $9,343.  Up to 10 businesses were unable to flush toilets until the matter was addressed.

The borough did not immediately fix the clog since no records were found specifying whether the section of pipe is borough controlled or owned by the shopping center.

Moving forward, the borough will maintain the pipe located in the right of way, which several businesses are hooked up to, unless a clog is directly attributed to a local business.

“The property owner acted responsibly,” Vaccaro said, about fixing the pipe.

Flynn was the lone “No” vote for the payout, in a 5-1 tally. McCoy was absent.

Also on Wednesday, council grappled about whether property owners should be able to rent for short terms.

“These uses are going on, you should make a decision,” Camp told council.

Bed and breakfasts were excluded from the conversation, and are allowed since an owner is located on site and food is served.

Camp said that the downtown is currently zoned for hotels. The downtown business district would be an “appropriate” or better location for short term rentals than neighborhoods, according to Camp.

In the past council had discussed requiring parking, likely a space per bedroom. Council informally agreed that those providing short term rentals would be able to furnish a spot through an agreeable neighbor.

Camp also told council that guests would have rent an entire house and not just individual rooms.

“My biggest fear is getting mini-hotels,” Flynn said. “I don’t like the idea of kids in our neighborhoods not feeling safe when seeing strangers going in and out of a home.”

Borough Manager Sean Metrick said that online advertisements show anywhere from eight to 15 units listed in the borough.

Camp will send a survey to council members asking about which districts, and any additional regulations, including parking requirements.

Brian McGinnis said that by not allowing short term rentals, borough businesses are losing out.

“People are going to be spending money and not trashing places,” McGinnis said.

Flynn, whose family rents short term, was the lone “Nay” vote.


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