PORTSMOUTH – The Parking, Traffic & Safety Committee voted 7-2 to recommend that the City Council approve Portsmouth’s first ever Neighborhood Parking Programs (NPP).
The six-month pilot NPPs will run in the city’s historic South End and Islington Creek neighborhoods if the City Council approves the project.
The committee voted to recommend approval of the programs in an effort to respond to residents’ concerns about lack of parking in their neighborhoods.
Committee members Ralph DiBernardo and Mary Lou McElwain voted against recommending approval, while Committee Chair and City Councilor Doug Roberts, Deputy City Manager Nancy Colbert Puff, Fire Chief Steve Achilles, Police Captain Frank Warchol, Public Works Director Peter Rice and committee members Harold Whitehouse and Shari Donnermeyer voted for it.
Before the vote, McElwain said it didn’t seem that businesses had been considered when designing the program.
“There’s lots of businesses in the Islington Creek area,” she said.
The input of several city residents during the public input portion of the committee’s meeting Thursday seemed to highlight the disagreement that exists in the community about the program.
Marcy Street resident Derek Horton spoke against the pilot NPPs.
“The additional signage and enforcement here in Portsmouth will diminish my neighborhood’s appeal and sense of community,” Horton said. “The streets were created and are maintained for public usage. Parking passes subvert and corrupt those public works for private gain.
He warned that if city officials make parking more scare, it will result in Portsmouth becoming “less welcoming.”
“We Portsmouth car owners and residents are big boys and girls and are smart enough to take personal responsibility for parking our cars without running to Mommy and Daddy government,” Horton said.
Islington Street resident Larry Cataldo urged the committee to “recommend this program to the City Council with your approval.”
“It’s a pilot, and as a pilot we have a lot to learn and we don’t know how it’s going to really turn out, but it’s worthwhile to find out because the problems in Islington Creek, as with the South End, have been with us for quite a while,” Cataldo said.
West End resident Daniel Umbro told the committee he is opposed to the NPPs.
He works on Islington Street and said up until the recent opening of the Foundry Place Garage “there was never a parking garage close enough to my work that it made sense to get a permit.”
“Even today the cost of a parking permit (in the garage) would be passed on directly to me, it would be an additional $1,200 per year to get to and from work,” Umbro said.
South End resident Peter Whelan attended Thursday’s meeting to support the pilot programs.
He noted that under the provisions of the pilot programs “anyone from the city or out-of-towners or tourists can park in the South End where there’s parking for two hours with no requirement.”
“After two hours then you’re going to have to move your car,” he added.
He stated that the South End “is really ground zero for what’s going on in the city.”
“We have the McIntyre project that’s going to happen downtown, there’s going to be a lack of parking there if it goes through and all that’s going to filter out to our neighborhood,” Whalen said in reference to the proposed redevelopment of the nearby McIntyre federal building property.
Roberts said he and Colbert Puff adjusted the NPPs to try to address concerns raised about them previously.
The programs in both neighborhoods will run from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and residents in Islington Creek will get three parking passes when the program initially called for four.
South End residents will get two parking passes and homes in each neighborhood will get one visitor parking pass, Roberts said.
Even if the City Council approves the programs, residents in the neighborhood still have to get 75 percent of residents to sign a petition in support of the program, Roberts said.