WOODMERE — The village soon will see its first electric vehicle charging station.

Village Council last week approved a use variance to allow for an electric vehicle charger along Chagrin Boulevard.

Co-owner of Beechmont Towers Ronnie Kertesz received a $13,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to partially cover the cost of the charging station. One station can charge two cars at once.

Last month, Village Building Commissioner Rick Loconti stated that there was no need for a use variance because it is an “accessory use” to the apartment building. Law Director Frank Consolo said that a use variance is necessary because the charging station is a retail use located within a residential zoning district. Council members appealed Mr. Loconti’s decision at the Oct. 13 council meeting.

“We are very supportive of that,” Brainard Road resident Gerald Carrier said of the plan to install an electric vehicle charger. His wife, Trina, recently purchased an electric vehicle. “An EV is a significant investment. They are not cheap.” Mr. Carrier said the charging station will be a good addition to the community.

At the council meeting on Nov. 10, Mr. Kertesz said about a dozen applicants in Cuyahoga County received the grant, but his application was the only residential property in the county to receive the grant. There were also several applications granted in Beachwood. Each charging station funded with the department of natural resources grant must be available to the public and be large enough for a wheelchair-accessible van, Mr. Kertesz said.

“It is the future, and it’s here now,” he said. “I happen to drive a Tesla so I’m very familiar with the concept.”

One concern, Mr. Kertesz said, was the location of the charging station. He anticipates the widening of Chagrin Boulevard in 2024, and did not want the charging station to be placed in a future construction zone. It will now be a little further east on the Beechmont Towers property than originally planned, but Mr. Kertesz said it will not be obtrusive to any neighboring properties.

“From a property owner’s perspective, it’s a necessary amenity to offer to the tenants and for office tenants also,” he said. “If you think about it, if you have an electric vehicle, what do you do at night? Are you going to run an extension cord out your window? It’s not likely. It will encourage forward thinking people to come to the village rather than discourage them from not being able to find a place because they can’t charge their vehicle.”

Mr. Loconti advised that the village consider the “intent” of the charging stations and decide if it is accurate to grant a permit to place them or not. He questioned whether the charging stations are a function of a retail establishment and whether they need the type of oversight the village has given.

“If there’s any retail component to them, there’s a side that would say this is a retail thing and needs to be conditionally zoned as such,” Mr. Loconti said. “But I think we need to decide if that’s the intent of the charger and do we want to put conditions on everyone, everywhere other than a simple permit.”

Mayor Ben Holbert introduced legislation at the council meeting to state that electric vehicle charging stations are an “acceptable apparatus” on commercial and residential properties in Woodmere. The legislation stated that the building commissioner can grant permits for charging stations. The ordinance was on first reading and council did not take action yet.

“Working with Mr. Kertesz, we don’t agree all the time but the great part about it is we agree to disagree and we move on,” Mayor Holbert said. “In this particular case, I think he’s right on mark with what he’s trying to do with the charging stations. This is the way of the future and the future is here.”

Woodmere’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the use variance for approval prior to the council meeting. The planning commission also approved a 48-foot setback variance, which was not subject to further approval from council.

In other news, Denver Brooker of Vocon, an architecture firm, requested a rear yard setback variance on behalf of Village Square. Target will fill the space at Village Square left after Whole Foods moved to Pinecrest in Orange Village several years ago.

Mr. Brooker said Target plans to build a loading dock behind the building and needs a 27-foot variance, which was approved. A waterline may need to be moved due to the construction, Mr. Loconti and Village Engineer Ed Hren said.

Mayor Holbert asked if Target will be open for shoppers in the first quarter of 2022. Mr. Brooker said the project will not move that fast. The landlord, Village Square, must complete the loading dock by March 22, 2022. After that, Target may begin their interior renovations, he said.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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