Oak Park is still exploring the idea of giving free parking to electric cars, five months after the notion was first pitched to the village board. But trustees suggested that the village needs to go a little further, if it wants to make an environmental statement with the new policy.  

Back in May, Oak Park started talking about the possibility of allowing 100-percent electric cars to park free for two hours at village parking meters. Such an offer, village officials said, might encourage people to buy those vehicles, and make the community look like a hotspot for green automobiles.

“What we’re trying to do here is make a statement,” said K.C. Poulos, sustainability manager for the village.

Monday, trustees got their first look at a draft ordinance, which would allow the free parking for the next two years, until the ordinance sunsets. Electric vehicles parking anywhere else would follow the normal regulations.

Trustees, however, felt the proposal was too unambitious, and wouldn’t entice a significant number of people to look at electric vehicles.

“I’d rather say an electric car gets to park free everywhere,” said Trustee Jon Hale.

Village board members expressed worry about having electric vehicles hogging valuable on-street parking spots, and they instead suggested that the cars be steered to public parking garages. Trustee Glenn Brewer also questioned whether the proposal would take a big chunk out of village revenues, though Village Manager Tom Barwin estimated that it would affect less than $3,000 in parking revenues.

Oak Park is hoping to become something of a destination for electric car enthusiasts. The village is getting a public solar-powered electric car charging station installed somewhere in the community by ComEd next year. And Oak Park has been working to recruit an electric car dealer here, Poulos said.  

Village staff plans to retool the ordinance and bring it back to the board in the coming weeks for a final decision.

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