Portsmouth breezes through rest of Comprehensive Plan

Town Council will formally vote on 20-year guide on April 11

By Jim McGaw
Posted 4/4/22

PORTSMOUTH — Although the process to get there took roughly two and a half years, the Town Council spent less than 40 minutes Monday night to review and tentatively approve the final four …

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Portsmouth breezes through rest of Comprehensive Plan

Town Council will formally vote on 20-year guide on April 11


PORTSMOUTH — Although the process to get there took roughly two and a half years, the Town Council spent less than 40 minutes Monday night to review and tentatively approve the final four elements of the Comprehensive Community Plan (CCP).

The council tentatively approved the final four elements of the plan — Water Supply, Transportation, Natural Hazards and Climate Change, and Land Use — all in unanimous 4-0 votes. (Council Vice President Linda Ujifusa and council members Mark Ryan and Daniela Abbott were absent from Monday’s meeting.)

IN OTHER NEWS: Portsmouth losing one-two planning punch

The entire plan, a road map to guide Portsmouth’s growth and development over the next 20 years, will be voted on at the council’s regular meeting on Monday, April 11, beginning at 7 p.m.

Since all of the individual elements have already been sent to Statewide Planning, Town Planner Gary Crosby said the approval process should be expedited. It should take anywhere from 45 to 60 days for the state to approve the CCP, he said.

State agencies must abide by local CCPs, which in turn must follow goals and policies established by the State Guide Plan. The other eight elements of the plan had been tentatively approved at meetings on March 7 and 21.

Only two residents sat in the audience for Monday’s meeting, but neither they or anyone viewing the session remotely offered any comments. The 12th and final element — Land Use — was described as the “biggie,” but it was tentatively approved after only six minutes of discussion.

Crosby described the Land Use element as “the one that has its fingers in all the other elements.” He assured the council, however, that no “wholesale changes in our future land use” were being suggested.

“There are very small incremental changes in what we’ve done,” Crosby said.

Council President Kevin Aguiar agreed with that assessment. Any major changes to Portsmouth’s land use policies would have to be considered during a public hearing anyway, he said.

“This is not something done in a vacuum,” Aguiar said.

According to state statute, once the town adopts the CCP, it has 18 months to amend its zoning ordinance to be in compliance, but the task is nowhere near as daunting as it appears, Crosby said. 

“To bring our zoning ordinance into compliance, we have a smattering of things we have to do,” he said, adding that in the future, the town has  “the luxury, or the responsibility” to fully update its zoning ordinance.

Other elements

Element No. 9, Water Supply, is in the plan because although the Portsmouth Water and Fire District, Newport Water and the Prudence Island Water District delivers drinking water to its customers, none of those agencies have jurisdiction over land use, Crosby said.

“This entire element has been vetted by The Portsmouth Water and Fire District and the Prudence Island Water District,” Crosby said before it was tentatively approved.

Element No. 10, Transportation, was included in the CCP because it allows the town to take a more long-range view of its transportation needs, Crosby said. 

On council member Keith Hamilton’s suggestion, Crosby agreed to add language pushing for a Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) bus loop via Park Avenue that could serve people of Island Park, the Hummocks and Common Fence Point. (The council has discussed this issue with RIPTA in the past.)

“This is an area where bus service makes sense,” Hamilton said.

Crosby agreed, saying “unless you live within a 10-minute walk of East or West Main roads,” it’s difficult to have access to a RIPTA bus.

Also tentatively approved was Element No. 11, Natural Hazards and Climate Change.

“This is a new element that we’ve been required to add through guidance by Statewide Planning,” said Crosby. “I like to think of climate change as a natural hazard that has been stretched out way over time.”

Although there’s little the town can do to prevent climate change and its consequences, the CCP addresses mitigation methods to minimize its impact, the planner said. “We’re not going to solve climate change; it’s a predicament we’re going to have to face,” said Crosby.

The town already has a separate Hazard Mitigation Plan that was updated in 2018, but this CCP element “deals more with resilience, allowing us to recover more quickly from the effects of climate change,” Crosby said.

The planner agreed with another suggestion by Hamilton — to move “sea level rise” from a “low” level of risk to a “medium” level of risk. (In a table included with the plan, “high” risks are identified as hurricanes, nor-easters, coastal flooding and snowstorms.)

“You’re preaching to the choir as far as I’m concerned,” Crosby replied.

2022 by East Bay Media Group

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.