PORTSMOUTH — The city’s Parking & Traffic Safety Committee voted 7-1 to postpone consideration of creating a controversial pilot neighborhood parking program.
Department of Public Works Director Peter Rice cast the lone vote against postponing a decision to create pilot programs in the city’s historic South End and Islington Creek neighborhoods.
The committee is an advisory committee charged with making a recommendation to the City Council about whether the pilot neighborhood parking programs should go forward.
The vote to postpone, which gives city staff another month to work on it, came after a motion to postpone consideration of the program for 60 days tied 4-4 and failed, according to City Councilor Doug Roberts, the committee’s chairman.
During Thursday’s meeting in City Hall, committee members and residents raised a series of concerns about implementing the pilot programs.
William Henson, president and CEO of Wentworth Senior Living in the city’s South End, told the committee he was opposed to the program. He stressed he didn’t dispute the fact there are parking problems in the South End, but opposes the pilot program because “we haven’t been part of the discussion.”
“I’ve had no opportunity to participate in the design of the program,” he said.
Creating a program where parking permits are handed out to residents in the already parking-challenged South End would eat up parking spaces in the neighborhood, he added. Such a program, Henson maintained, would have a “direct negative impact on our workforce,” along with a negative impact on “non-residents.”
The program would essentially take the available on-street parking, which he described as a “community resource,” and turn it into a “private entitlement.”
Committee member Ralph DiBernardo raised a series of questions about the workability of the neighborhood parking programs. Those questions, he said, leave him with doubts “as to whether we can make this work without hurting a large segment of our community.” He added it creates an “unfair burden to businesses,” like the Wentworth House.
The program also “disenfranchises the rest of the city of Portsmouth residents by creating private parking on public roads,” he said.
The pilot programs would take a lot of time to enforce because of the provision that non-residents can park in the neighborhoods for two hours.
“Sign pollution is going to become a necessity,” DiBernardo said.
He noted that as proposed there are different enforcement times for the two neighborhoods, which he said “makes no sense at all.”
Committee member Shari Donnermeyer said she agreed “with everything Ralph said” and added the proposed neighborhood parking programs “need more refinement.”
She also raised concerns about businesses that were “never considered” in the program, and said monitoring who parks in the neighborhoods would be difficult. She questioned why in the South End program residents would get two parking permits and in Islington Creed they’d get four.
Committee member Harold Whitehouse made an amendment, which failed, to remove the South End from the pilot program.
“A lot of people are really upset about this issue,” he said. “They don’t want to see it.”
Deputy City Manager Nancy Colbert Puff, who does not live in the city, pointed out that both neighborhoods “requested these programs.”
Committee member and Police Capt. Frank Warchol stated if they did the pilot in one neighborhood first, they would get to see the “unintended consequences of having that program.”