PORTSMOUTH — Councilor Rick Becksted believes if the City Council lowers the parking requirements in the Downtown Overlay District the results will be “catastrophic for the city.”

His comments came Tuesday a day after the council passed the first reading of a proposed zoning amendment that would decrease the parking requirements in some cases.

City Planning Director Juliet Walker confirmed Monday night the proposed zoning change would impact parking requirements for the McIntyre Federal Building redevelopment.

“Right now, zoning requires 1.3 parking spaces per residential unit, and they’ve proposed 77 spaces for 77 units,” Becksted said about the proposed redevelopment of the city’s private development partners Redgate/Kane. “City staff is now proposing that will go down to one. That would be a disaster for the downtown.”

The city is looking to redevelop the property in a public/private partnership with Redgate/Kane.

Deputy City Manager Nancy Colbert Puff initially said at Monday’s council meeting that the parking proposed by Redgate/Kane met city zoning standards. But after being questioned by Becksted, she acknowledged that was not the case.

“I shouldn’t have said met, I should have said attempts to cover the residential parking requirement pursuant to zoning,” Colbert Puff said.

The city is working to acquire the property for free through the Historic Monument Program, but the development team must preserve the McIntyre building.

Redgate/Kane’s proposal includes using the McIntyre for office space and building a 4½-story mixed-use building and two 3½-story mixed-use buildings on the property.

The plan includes several hardscaped open spaces, an indoor community gathering space, small kiosks, an art area, a possible market and potentially “a green wall,” developers have said. Becksted has repeatedly said the developer’s plan for only 77 spaces at the 2.1-acre site will create “huge parking problems” in the area. He cast the lone no vote against passing first reading of a proposed zoning ordinance amendment concerning “off-street parking.” Second reading and a public hearing on the matter is scheduled to be held at the council’s Jan. 22 meeting.

City Manager John Bohenko said the amendment was proposed to “clarify the off-street parking requirements in the zoning ordinance.” He added the zoning amendment would create “additional criteria” for the “granting of a conditional-use permit by the Planning Board for providing less than the minimum number of off-street parking spaces required or for exceeding the maximum of off-street parking spaces allowed.”

Councilor Josh Denton asked if the proposed amendment would “affect the McIntyre site.”

Walker replied, “Yes, in short for the particular provisions that apply to the Downtown Overlay District, the proposal is to make the Downtown Overlay District the same as for the rest of the city.”

“So, right now it’s just 1.3 for residential units in the downtown, the rest of the city has a range based on the size of the units,” Walker said Monday.

She explained “this was an oversight when we did the original revisions.”

“The Planning Board actually discussed having the exact same standards for the downtown for residential units,” Walker said. “When it came to the City Council that particular aspect of it was not incorporated.”

Walker said Wednesday “current zoning would require 96 off-(street) parking spaces for 77 residential units” in the McIntyre plan, adding “There is a 4-space credit in the Downtown Overlay District.”

A zoning amendment passed in 2017 “uses dwelling unit floor area to determine the required off-street parking for all properties outside of the Downtown Overlay District,” she said.

“Dwelling units with floor area of less than 500 square require 0.5 parking spaces, units with 500 to 750 square feet require one space per unit, and units of more than 750 square feet require 1.3 spaces per unit,” Walker said.

Redgate/Kane “has not submitted an application to the Planning Department for site plan review approval, which would include the proposed size of the units,” Walker said. Because of that she can’t “provide an accurate analysis of how the proposed amendments would impact the requirements for the proposed development until I receive more details.”

Another zoning amendment the council is considering is that any project in the Downtown Overlay District proposing to provide less parking than required under the zoning ordinance “would require a conditional-use permit from the Planning Board,” Walker said.

The council also passed first reading of that ordinance Monday and scheduled a second reading and public hearing for Jan. 22.

Assistant Mayor Cliff Lazenby acknowledged parking is an issue at the McIntyre site as now proposed.

“It has been one of the things that has raised my eyebrows all the way along,” Lazenby said Tuesday. “I get why there’s concerns. I’m concerned about it too.”

He wants to see more details from Redgate/Kane on how they plan to handle parking at the site. But he believes there are options to address transportation needs there that don’t involve more parking spots.

“I think this is an opportunity to do something that will outlast us,” Lazenby said.

Denton on Wednesday said he shares concerns about the lack of parking at the McIntyre site.

“I’m looking forward to see what they come back with,” he said. “The current plan is not final.”

“If you have a parking garage there it will draw more cars there and it’s already dense,” he said. “Ideally, people would park somewhere else and walk there, especially since the Foundry Place Garage is open.”