PORTSMOUTH — Former City Councilor Harold Whitehouse urged his fellow Parking & Traffic Safety Committee members to “take a stand” on the proposed parking plan for the redevelopment of the McIntyre Federal Building site.
He said the committee should “let our views be known in reference to the McIntyre project.” “I mean, certainly parking and traffic is a big issue on the McIntyre project,” Whitehouse said at Thursday’s committee meeting in Council Chambers at City Hall.
He noted the city’s development partner, Redgate/Kane, is proposing “77 parking spaces for 77 (apartments).” Redgate/Kane’s proposal includes using the McIntyre building for office space and building a 4½-story and two 3½-story mixed-use buildings on the property. The developers have not released a parking plan to address the non-residential uses proposed for the site, but they are not required to under city ordinance.
Whitehouse made a motion to “go on record as opposing the McIntyre plan based on the issue of parking, in reference to the parking plan, which is very ineffective.”
“I think it’s a very important issue for us to take a stand one way or the other,” he said.
He then referenced Monday’s City Council meeting, where residents packed Council Chambers for a public hearing on the proposed redevelopment. Most who spoke opposed the plan, the proposed financial deal between developers and the city, or both.
When Whitehouse finished speaking, Planning Director Juliet Walker, who does not serve on the committee, walked to the podium in Council Chambers.
“I would like to recommend if the committee has interest in this, wait till there’s actually a formal proposal in front of us that has more detail on the number of parking spaces that will be provided and the number of units,” Walker said. “At this point all that’s been presented is a very conceptual plan and there’s no specifics, although they did present 77 and 77.”
She added the redevelopment proposal is “not a formal application and we have no details in the Planning Department.” As recently as Monday, the City Council had been scheduled to vote in two weeks on whether to approve the redevelopment application that will be presented to the National Park Service as part of the city’s effort to get the 2.1-acre parcel for free.
Whitehouse did not get a second to his motion. “It’s OK. I just wanted my views to be known. I’m opposed to the present plan,” he said.
Deputy City Manager Nancy Colbert Puff, the lead city official on the project, then made a motion to adjourn the meeting.
The City Council on Monday passed first reading of a proposed zoning amendment that would decrease parking requirements in some cases in the district, which includes the McIntyre property. Current zoning requires 1.3 parking spaces per residential unit and city staff has proposed lowering it to one.
City Councilor Rick Becksted this week said lowering the parking requirements in the Downtown Overlay District would be “catastrophic for the city.”
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 for the rest of the city “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. The zoning amendment seeks to take that same approach in the Downtown Overlay District, she said.
Because Redgate/Kane has not submitted a formal application to the city, Walker can’t say how many parking spots the developers would have to offer if the zoning amendment passes.