PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth City Council took an early step Monday night in its ambitious Master Plan following extensive public comment and deliberation among city government officials.
At the request of Community Development Director Tracy Shearer, the council went ahead with authorizing the submittal of a grant application due June 1 and accepting that grant and obligations if funded. Council first toiled with the notion of tabling the resolution before all six council members voted in favor.
With this vote, the city could receive up to $40,782 through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources NatureWorks Grant, money of which would go to the Market Square Pavilion.
Most of the public comments that City Clerk Dianna Ratliff received through email were supporting the measure, the few against voicing environmental and parking concerns. The 9-foot high pavilion has been identified among the Master Plan’s highest priorities previously.
“I believe this project existing businesses as well as creating interest for new development, tourism and a vibrant downtown,” said Tim Wolfe in a letter, local developer and owner of Patties and Pints.
“The Friends of Portsmouth believes this will not only add to the downtown atmosphere and development, but attract new interest and possible developments.” added Brian Smith, Assistant Director of Friends of Portsmouth.”This would be an excellent addition to the Market Street area as our group continues to host large events in the downtown area.”
Ohio Department of Natural Resources Regional Urban Forester Ann Bonner, at the request of Mayor Kevin Johnson and the Portsmouth Shade Tree Commission, inspected the median area last week home to 15 trees by her calculation. Removal costs would range between $19,000 and $25,000 she said.
“The difference between green and gray infrastructure is trees are inexpensive to plant, but grow in value over time,” read a portion of her message, based out of Athens. “Gray infrastructure is expensive to install and begins to depreciate immediately…it would be very shortsighted by the city to remove these trees and replace them.”
Trees would need to be removed for the construction, however not as many as 15 said City Manager Sam Sutherland. A removal of eight trees instead would mean a decreased cost for the city in its pay-out.
2nd Ward Councilwoman Charlotte Gordon joined with one business owner in suggesting a different location for the pavilion further north on Market Street to allow for more parking. She would like to replicate the success of that area, home to Winterfest and farmers markets, into new areas throughout the city in a long-term, five to 10 year period.
“If you’ve ever been through little towns where that growth is happening, you really want to see one more block,” she said, comparing it to other nearby areas like Maysville, Kentucky or Over the Rhine in Cincinnati.
Council’s task in her mind is to take the Master Plan, chock-full of ideas for urban development and run with it.
“I think it’s up to us figure out the best place for that development,” she said. “Development is ongoing, it’s long, and a nod to the future. What kind of Portsmouth do we want to grow into?”
The pavilion construction would take away 12 spots if it remains at the 9-feet height, but spots could be re-added if its clearance would be increased. Through a proposition from Dr. Michael Raies, local optometrist and investor, a separate 24-spot parking space could be created making for a net gain of 12.
The parking issue is one 1st Ward Councilman Sean Dunne, hearing from many constituents, and the Master Plan itself are familiar as a hurdle to economic development. This new plan, in his view, actually may alleviate some of that problem.
“The one (business owner) that wrote in opposition was about parking and as we’ve heard this actually adds parking” he said, the Master Plan suggesting the city either purchase lots or operate public parking. “I think this would be good for the business owners of the 1st Ward, residents of the 1st Ward, visitors to the 1st Ward.”
Sutherland applauded the work of Shearer and City Engineer Nathan Prosch in providing a space that would both attract visitors to the area and the increased parking.
“It was a good trade in my mind,” he said.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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