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Gas/Fuel/Service Station Land Use & Zoning for an EV World

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Our Mission

We provide research and resources to help Citizens and City/County/State officials prepare their Land Use and Zoning codes for an electric vehicle future.

In particular, we advocate for municipalities to use Land Use and Zoning to protect themselves from the environmental and economic risks from gas/fuel/service stations becoming bankrupt/insolvent/abandoned as electric vehicles remove the need for these businesses. In the worst case cleaning up fuel/gas stations can cost municipalities/taxpayers hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.

Risks to Municipalities

Land Use and Zoning

What zoning policies could exist to reduce the risks from service/fuel/gas stations?

Why are setbacks an effective policy?

When an underground storage tank leaks the petroleum can travel on the surface or through soils and groundwater. A setback may limit adjacent sensitive areas or properties from being affected.

For example here is a map from a Staff report from Springfield Oregon where 400 gallons leaked from underground storage tanks at a gas station and traveled roughly 100 feet via groundwater.

In this case having a leak only damage water and soil 100ft away is a “good” outcome. In April 2022, for example, a surface leak from a fuel depot in Medford traveled over 1,400 feet and contaminated Bear Creek.

Is anyone changing zoning for service/fuel/gas stations?

In 2021 Petaluma, CA became the first city to ban the construction of new fuel stations. In their City Land Use Code you can now see that in all zones Fuel Stations are marked as “Use Not Allowed”.

In 2014 Montgomery County, MD passed Ordinance amendment that requires a 500ft setback from “dwelling unit; public or private school; park; playground; day care center; any outdoor use categorized as a Civic and Institutional use or a Recreation and Entertainment use; or any wetland, stream, river, flood plain, or environmentally sensitive area.”

Want more examples? Many municipal codes already protect citizens and public resources from gas stations. See the example gas station municipal codes page.

Who regulates fuel station sites?

Summary: Municipalities regulate the location of fuel/gas stations. And zoning should be used by municipalities to ensure fuel/gas stations are located where leaks cause minimal damage and are inexpensive to cleanup later.

We have a number of Data & Reports to provide context on the economic and environmental costs of service stations. For a more general overview of the issues outlined there are also a number of News Articles related to the issue of abandoned service stations and the economic pinch they will be experiencing in the coming decade.