PORTSMOUTH – The Portsmouth City Council voted 6-0 to advance the 2nd reading of an ordinance that would repeal the city’s antiquated zoning regulations and replace them with a 21st century update.
The City has been using the same zoning codes since the 1940s. Now, City Manager Sam Sutherland and City Council are a single vote away from updating the 80 year old zoning codes. The new codes divide the city into nine distinct districts intended to promote compatible land usage by establishing limitations on use, placement, and scale of structures within each district.
Districts include Rural (intended to promote rural character and geological stability through large lots and low intensity usage), Hillside Neighborhood (intended to support low density residential development compatible with the steep topography of the neighborhoods), traditional neighborhood (intended to support medium density residential uses in well connected, walk-able neighborhoods) Downtown (intended to promote development of medium to high density residential and commercial uses in walk-able, highly connected neighborhoods), Corridor (intended to promote commercial and residential usage surrounding US Route 52 and 23 corridors), University (intended to promote a mix of residential, commercial, and institutional uses within the surrounding campus of Shawnee State University), Medical (intended to promote mixed use development within and surrounding Portsmouth’s hospital center), Industrial Flex (intended to promote industrial and other commercial uses along railroad, highway, and river transportation corridors), and parks and open space (intended to promote environmental and recreational wellness through the protection of nature preserves, park-lands, and natural resources management areas.)
Prior to the reading, 3rd Ward Councilman Andy Cole made a motion to amend the code. Cole suggested that new addiction treatment facilities be solely allowed in the industrial flex district.
“I would like to remove addiction treatment facilities from the zone of the corridor (district),” said Cole. “This would simply allow addiction treatment centers to come into our town…and housed in one zone – the industrial flex zone. It would remove them from the corridor district, which is the entrances and exits to our town along 52 and 23.”
Cole also explained current facilities would be immune to the zoning code – it would only affect new facilities.
Mayor and 1st Ward Councilman Sean Dunne suggested waiting to amend the ordinance so that other council members could review the amendment. Cole agreed. But the proposal wasn’t without controversy.
“There is stigma against people in recovery. There is stigma against providers of mental health and addiction treatment,” said HopeSource CEO Jay Hash. “I find myself yet again concerned. I come here not seeing anything on the agenda with the business I run – which is a legitimate healthcare business – but in the course of the meeting it came up…I’m concerned about the wide sweeping statement that would push addiction treatment to industrial flex zone of Portsmouth.”
“What message do you think that sends to the people who are trying to get treatment in this City? I am very disappointed at your attempt to add this amendment to the zoning code…You have a lot of people in recovery in your ward. Including me. I am upset with you and I am in disagreement with your proposed amendment. Where is the next place you want to push those seeking treatment? Are you proposing to send any other healthcare companies to the industrial zone? Addiction treatment is a legitimate business that helps the health of our citizens and community. If you want to hide people like me and the providers of treatment like me in the industrial zone so that can’t be seen…I’m seeing a trend of discrimination against addiction treatment.”
Mayor Dunne had a short response during his Mayor’s report.
“As we move forward with zoning, one of the things we’ve really tried to do is to call attention to individuals in housing or facilities that have been written off in different ways,” said Dunne. “It’s important to point at that those who have spoken out in support of this group have been members of city council. I’m happy to have the record checked on what’s been talked about in terms of recovery housing and addiction treatment facilities.”
The zoning code is set to be approved at the next meeting held on Monday, November 14th at 6PM.