An array of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations that Tesla has proposed installing at the Winthrop Visitor Information Center may need to find another home, the Town Council agreed at its meeting last week.
Tesla has proposed installing eight “supercharger” EV charging stations in the parking lot of the information center on Highway 20. The council discussed the proposal at an earlier meeting.
Tesla is proposing to install six back-in stations on the west side of the parking lot nearest the highway, and two pull-through stations for larger vehicles or those pulling boats, trailers or campers. Tesla would lease the spots from the town for a fee that has yet to be determined.
Tesla representative Zac Whitney told the council that Tesla had been contemplating a bank of charging stations in Winthrop for several years, and that the planned “superchargers” would be compatible with most EVs. He said the goal is install the stations in 2024.
Tesla has proposed a 10-year lease agreement that cannot be terminated until the first five-year renewal period, and then with 18-months’ notice — so the town would be locked in for at least 11 ½ years, under the agreement as now proposed.
At last week’s meeting, the council reviewed a letter from the heirs of the former property owners of the visitor information property (which for many years was the site of the Winthrop library), objecting to the Tesla proposal. Writing for the Dufresne family, Darrell Dufresne noted that the original language included in the deed that conveyed the property to the town requires that the land be used for park or recreational purposes.
“This proposal is a commercial venture and would exclude members of the public that do not own electric vehicles and would limit parking for participants of events at the ballpark and city park,” the letter said.
Dufresne suggested that the Winthrop Town Trailhead, near the Winthrop Rink, might be a better location as there is more space available there.
Council members agreed that the Town Trailhead parking lot is worth considering, although the parking surface would need to be paved and appropriate electrical service extended to the site. The council also contemplated asking if Tesla would settle for four charging stations, although that might make the project financially unfeasible for the car company.
Council member Ben Nelson noted that while the trailhead parking lot is heavily used in the winter by skiers and skaters, for the rest of the year it is relatively empty.
Council members agreed to get more information about the possibility of using the Town Trailhead lot for the charger array.