Tesla to build new charging station in Strasburg

Strasburg might soon host Tesla Motors’ first charging station in the region.

The Planning Commission this week approved changes to the existing site plan for the Denny’s restaurant at 119 Hite Lane, off U.S. 11. The changes call for the inclusion of a Tesla Supercharger station at the rear of the property near the Hite Lane entrance.

The California-based manufacturer of electric cars has Superchargers in Woodbridge, Glen Allen north of Richmond, South Hill and in Hagerstown, Maryland. The Strasburg station would be the first in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

The Strasburg area falls in line with the company’s expansion plan to “energize” Interstate 81 to Chattanooga, Tennessee, a spokeswoman stated by email Thursday.

The Supercharger stations charge the Tesla Model S and provide up to 120 kilowatts of power and a driving range of 170 miles in 30 minutes. The stations are specifically for use with Tesla vehicles.

Tesla chooses locations approximately 150 miles from each other and in places that offer amenities to car owners, such as dining, restrooms, shopping or walking, according to information from the spokeswoman. Tesla announced the technology in late 2012 and has installed 400 stations worldwide.

The company doesn’t provide an estimated time when it expects to build and open the station this early in the project work, the spokeswoman said.

Denny’s owns the property and has given Tesla permission to use the space for the charging station, Planning and Zoning Administrator Wyatt Pearson said Wednesday. Tesla proposes to renovate eight parking spaces behind Denny’s at no cost to the restaurant, Pearson said.

“The idea is that it provides them with more service, so if someone would get off the interstate, charge their car and come in to Denny’s and eat,” Pearson said.

Tesla needs to submit the final plans before the project can move forward. Also, Tesla must remove two trees in order to place the Supercharger hardware and transformer. The trees would be relocated to other places on the Denny’s site. Charge posts will be located at the front of the parking spaces, connected by cables under the pavement to the transformer. Tesla proposed installing a wooden fence to house the charging equipment with a gate for secured access and concrete bollards to protect the station from collisions.

Tesla representative Beau Whiteman, regional project manager for Supercharger, presented information to the Planning Commission.

Tesla drivers who use the charging station will enter from Hite Lane and then exit via a one-way route from the parking lot to U.S. 11, Pearson explained.

The applicant requested two exceptions to the requirements outlined in the Unified Development Ordinance. The charging station area encroaches the 50-foot setback in the rear of the property. The ordinance requires the setback for a development in the Highway Commercial District adjacent to a residential property. Additionally, the applicant proposed an 8-foot-high fence whereas the ordinance limits the height to 6 feet.

The Planning Commission granted the exceptions. Pearson pointed out that a 50-foot-high retaining wall places the installation of the station far above the residential district behind the property. Also, an 8-foot fence would more effectively screen a large, electrical transformer. Placing the structure in the rear of the property also helps keep the station area far from the residential district.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com