South Carolina Town Sued Over Blocked Tesla Charging Station

tesla supercharger hero

In a legal standoff, Palmetto Farms, a local store in Aynor, South Carolina, has sued the town for failing to issue a building permit for a Tesla charging station.

Devin Dorman, co-owner of Palmetto Farms, signed a five-year lease with Tesla in August 2022 to convert 10 parking spaces into a charging station. “That’s a lot of traffic for our store, but not enough that would create any sort of traffic issues in Aynor,” said Dorman, reports The Post and Courier (via @MarcoRPi2).

Despite the agreement, the project remains in limbo. Palmetto Farms filed a lawsuit against the town on June 29, stating, “There is no substantial justification for Aynor’s failure to act. Aynor’s Zoning Ordinances do not prohibit Palmetto Farms from having a supercharger station.” The lawsuit accuses the town of causing an “unreasonable regulatory delay.”

Tony Godsey, Aynor Town Manager, declined to comment. The town’s court documents argue that the charging station doesn’t align with existing zoning classifications. Mayor John Gardner did not respond to requests for comment.

Dorman, who drives a Tesla, believes the charging station would attract significant traffic, especially during the summer months. Tesla estimates that more than 2,000 vehicles would use the Aynor station in the summer. The town is located nearly 30 miles west of Myrtle Beach and about 45 miles from Interstate 95.

“Currently, Palmetto Farms cannot build the supercharger station because Aynor’s building inspector has not ruled on the building permit application,” reads the lawsuit. “For the same reason, Palmetto Farms cannot appeal to the Board of Zoning Appeals — there is no building inspector decision to appeal. As a result, Palmetto Farms is stuck in limbo and does not have a supercharger station to draw customers to its retail store.”

South Carolina trails its neighbors in electric vehicle infrastructure, according to a study by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. The state ranks fifth among six Southeastern states in the rollout of electric cars and chargers.

The lawsuit reveals that the building permit review process typically takes one to two weeks. Dewberry Engineers, a firm collaborating with Palmetto Farms and Tesla, submitted a building permit application on Oct. 18, 2022. Nine days later, a town official informed them via email that the plans could not be approved due to a lack of zoning ordinance for a supercharger station.

Although the one-year term for obtaining permits expired on Aug. 28, Dorman confirmed that Tesla has not yet terminated the agreement and is awaiting the lawsuit’s outcome.

On Sept. 8, the town filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that since they had now formally rejected the permit application, the case was moot. Palmetto Farms filed an appeal on Sept. 1, and the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals is set to hear the matter on Oct. 17, according to court records.