Let Tesla Expand? Germans Vote No.

Let Tesla Expand? Germans Vote No.

Tesla’s decision to settle in Grünheide, which is in the state of Brandenburg, and the speed with which the factory was built — 861 days — has been a point of pride for local politicians in a country known for its onerous permitting processes.

The factory, which opened two years ago, has also become an important driver of growth in the state, long one of the most economically challenged in Germany. Brandenburg recorded economic growth of 6 percent in the first half of 2023, largely driven by the 11,000 jobs at the plant and dozens of suppliers that have sprung up around it.

But many local residents contend the plant has disrupted a quality of life that drew them to Grünheide, and say it threatens the air and water quality.

Some said that Tesla already had the right to build warehouses and a rail yard on its existing 740-acre footprint where the factory stands. They welcomed the chance to have a say in the matter.

“This is the first time that local residents have been asked, and they gave a very clear answer,” said Steffen Schorcht, an activist with the Bürgerinitiative Grünheide, which opposed the expansion. “We expect that politicians will respect it.”

Brandenburg’s economy minister, Jörg Steinbach, said the vote reflected people’s persistent uncertainty about the U.S. maker of electric vehicles, and it would be up to politicians to work harder to convince them of how its presence benefits the region.

“I see the result of the vote as motivation for the municipality and Tesla to address the unresolved conceptual concerns in the coming weeks and months,” Mr. Steinbach said.

Mr. Christiani welcomed that more than 70 percent of eligible voters in Grünheide cast ballots. But he pointed out that the plan they voted down also included infrastructure developments that are important for the wider community and would need to be resolved.

The final decision on how to move forward rests with the Grünheide town council. It has not put the issue on its agenda of the next meeting, in March, and officials declined to comment on when that could happen. The body will hold its last meeting before local elections is in mid-May.

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Kyle C. Garrison

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