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Name: Ned Raynolds
Occupation: commercial solar consultant
Years living in Portsmouth: 19
Public service experience:
– Served on Portsmouth City Council 2004-2008 and 2018-2019
– Civic advocacy in Portsmouth (2001-2004) led to our new library being designed and built to achieve USGBC LEED certification, the first such municipally-owned building in New Hampshire.
– Undergraduate degree (BS) in government, U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
– Masters degree in public policy, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
– 21-year active duty & reserve career, U.S. Coast Guard; Retired O-4.
– Policy & program analyst for Lawrence Berkeley National Lab on U.S. EPA Energy Star program 1996-1999.
– Public policy advocate (energy/environment/climate) for nonprofits Alliance to Save Energy, Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, Clean Air-Cool Planet, Union of Concerned Scientists 1999-2009.
– Served on Alexandria, Va., Environmental Policy Commission 1997-2000.
– Member, Portsmouth Bike/Pedestrian Master Plan Advisory Committee.
– Coached Seacoast Lacrosse, Portsmouth Rec. and PCSC Soccer.
– Board member, Seacoast Mental Health Center and Seacoast Area Bicycle Riders.
– Member, NHPR Community Advisory Board.
– Volunteer, Share Our Strength Portsmouth and PHS Celebration Graduation
Q1: What can the city do to increase its supply of affordable housing?
The city can’t repeal the law of supply and demand, nor infringe on every homeowner’s or condo/apartment owner’s right to get the highest price or rent they can (including the renovators/developers of new ones). Every one of us would do the same if we were the owner or builder/developer. The high prices and rents are a function of high demand — Portsmouth is a great place to live, and everyone wants to live here. To meet the high demand and have any hope of moderating prices, we have to increase supply. We’ve been doing that — with new development. It’s frustrating, though, that new places like Veridian at Portsmouth Green, way out on Lafayette Road, command such high rents ($1,940 for 1BR). The renovated apartments at Brewery Lane are a little more reasonable, starting at $1,345 — but for a small floor area. The 82 more units coming next door in front of Hannaford (on the long-empty former City Public Works yard) are a great example of the kind of new projects we need — infill, close to services and jobs. The approved new Portsmouth Housing Authority building at 46 Court St. is an incredibly welcome and needed addition to the government-managed, price-restricted housing supply, of which PHA has a lot — but PHA can only do so much. The approved development at West End Yards — the old Frank Jones Conference Center site on Route 1 — is another welcome addition: 250 new apartments, 11 percent of which will be rented at “workforce rates.” That’s a result of the developer making use of the “density bonus” provision in our zoning ordinance — allowing greater density in exchange for a percentage of units rent-regulated that way. We should make every effort to ensure the 272 units proposed by Clipper Traders for the North Mill Pond rail-yard property are done the same way. The city should also accelerate the permitting of accessory dwelling units, which “kill two birds with one stone”: allowing small, relatively affordable apartments to be built attached to or on the same property as existing homes, and a way for the owners of those homes to continue to afford them by enabling them to get rental income.
Q2: Are there specific areas in the city budget where you think spending cuts can be made? Are there specific areas where you think spending should be increased?
No. If I did, I would have proposed them. After living in Portsmouth for 19 years — serving on City Council for six of them — as both a renter and a homeowner, a parent of three children who’ve gone through our schools (one still an eighth-grader), an avid user of our recreational facilities, I see the city as an extremely well and efficiently run enterprise that delivers a wide array of services that people want, along with all the functions that people need — that are required — in a city: great police and fire protection, public works services like trash collection, snow removal, park maintenance, and so much more. Code enforcement, restaurant health inspections, parking management, operation of fresh water supply and distribution and sewer/sewage treatment systems. We also have excellent schools — a cornerstone of property values and a healthy community — and robust recreational programs and facilities, an incredible library, and a range of services for seniors (including a much-anticipated new community center on the site of the former Doble Army Reserve Center on Cottage Street. Can’t possibly mention it all here. Based on all my experience and perspective, and many conversations, I believe Portsmouth taxpayers (and renters, who pay property taxes indirectly) are very satisfied with what they get for their taxes.
Q3: Do you support a citywide ban on single-use disposables such as plastic bags, plastic straws, and Styrofoam containers?
Yes. Many businesses in town doing so voluntarily show us that it’s possible without going out of business or losing customers — in fact, a substantial part of the population goes out of their way to patronize those businesses. My girlfriend lives in Newburyport, and when I accompany her to their Market Basket, I see lots of people happily shopping without having to carry their $150 worth of groceries out in 20 new disposable plastic bags. As a Seacoast community, blessed by and dependent on the health of the ocean for our prosperity and enjoyment, we should be on the forefront of environmental protection, and the time for this ban has arrived.
Q4: Regarding the McIntyre redevelopment project:
A) Do you support the Redgate/Kane plan?
Yes, we had an extensive process of public input into what should happen there — in fact, I was one of the newly elected councilors last election who insisted that we undertake it — shortly after we took our seats in 2018, and the Redgate-Kane Plan was significantly shaped by that input. I said at the time that I was proud of how well Portsmouth has learned as a community to “do public input” over the past two decades through various means and forums for community information sharing, discussion, and deliberation, including the birth and growth of Portsmouth Listens in the debate over the Middle School possible relocation, then renovation, up through the development of the Prescott Park Master Plan. Although I wish the 72 apartments to be built were not going to be so high-priced, that is a reflection of their expected cost of construction in 2020 and their location — just like the apartments on upper floors of our existing buildings on Bow, Penhallow, and Market streets. I believe those apartments are a necessary financial component of a project that will fund the required preservation and conversion of the 50-year-old federal building into a modern office building, and replace a long barricaded, barren parking garage with more of what most people love about downtown Portsmouth — attractive streetscapes and public ways with thoughtfully designed pedestrian access and sightlines — both looking “up” from Bow Street to the center of the site, and across from Penhallow to St. John’s Church. Those public ways will have interesting retail, restaurant, and professional spaces intermixed, while it also will contain two features we don’t currently have, and that the public input called for loudly and clearly: small, flexible, short-term rental spaces (think “bull carts” or “pop-up shops”) for local entrepreneurs and artists, and the large public community space/“living room” where residents and visitors alike can gather, mingle, and relax, whether they’re purchasing/shopping or not, and that can host group gatherings of all kinds or even minor public events.
B) Do you think the Council should step back and consider other plans, such as the one put forth by Bill Binnie?
Q5: What can be done to clean up and prevent PFAS contamination and other chemical contaminants on the Seacoast?
Unfortunately, Portsmouth has been on the forefront of the discovery of PFAS contamination in our water — at the Haven well on Pease, as a result of the U.S. Air Force’s use of firefighting foam over the decades it was an active Air Force base. Fortunately, that also put us on the forefront of awareness and remediation — no one in Portsmouth drinks or is at risk of drinking PFAS or other contaminated water. The city’s Water Department and its director, Brian Goetz, are recognized experts in water quality, and the city has an extremely well-run operation that includes source-water protection efforts and extensive testing and quality assurance. An annual report on our water quality is mailed to every household in Portsmouth, and it can be viewed here, along with a specific and detailed report of the Portsmouth Water System’s response to — and compliance with — the state of New Hampshire’s new PFAS standards (see here). Residents should be able to take comfort that we are in good shape here.
Q6: Do you feel that development in Portsmouth — particularly of luxury condos, hotels, and other large-scale buildings — should be curtailed?
The city is in a difficult position when it comes to development — property owners can build what our adopted zoning allows, and zoning has to be consistent — so downtown lots, or those along corridors like Islington Street, have a certain scale that’s allowed. The city can’t suddenly “down-zone” a certain lot or area of the city — we’d get sued, and lose. Whether a builder or developer chooses to make their units “luxury” or more mainstream, or even affordable, is up to them — a function of market forces, although we may be able to entice a few (as mentioned with respect to West End Yards) to make some affordable. That said, I admit that I have been shocked to see how big the new AC Hotel is next to 3S Artspace — yet, we are getting a nearly 1-acre waterfront park behind it as public open space. I DO think we need to hold the line at our established zoning limits — we should NOT grant multiple variances such as developer Kim Rogers is requesting to allow a new six-story hotel instead of a previously approved 43-unit apartment building on Hill Street (near the new Foundry Garage) (see here). I will be attending the Oct. 15 Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) hearing to urge that board NOT to grant those variances, and I urge anyone who feels the same way to join me.
Q7: What are your feelings on the idea of building a permanent covered stage in Prescott Park for festival events?
I fully support the conclusions and recommendations of the Prescott Park Master Plan, which was developed over the entire year of 2016 through an exemplary process of extensive public input combined with consultation with experts in the arts, recreation, landscape architecture, engineering, and more. Anyone who loves Prescott Park should read the report here. The plan recommends a seasonal, moveable stage, but pointedly voices strong support for the permanent presence of arts and culture programming in the park, and a strong commitment to the presence and vibrant operation of a stage facility five months of the year. Because this topic was of such interest and importance, the report goes into several pages of discussion about how such a stage would be designed and how it would work.
Q8: Should the city add more bike lanes and/or take other measures to improve bicycle safety and/or reduce motor-vehicle traffic downtown?
The city should continue with implementation of its Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, which was developed over several years with investment of much time and resources, including extensive public input (and I served on the Advisory Committee), pursuant to a long-held goal of our Master Plan, which is to improve the walkability and bike-ability of our city.
As for motor-vehicle traffic downtown, I’ve long felt that the traffic pattern that funnels cars into “Portsmouth’s Living Room” — Market Square — while it may work during three seasons of the year, becomes very unpleasant and dysfunctional during the summer and even on shoulder season weekends. That’s why Councilor Pearson and I proposed and executed the two “Share the Square” Sundays this fall, to experiment with and let people see what Market Square could be like if we routed traffic around it rather than through it during our busiest times. If the second Sunday (Oct. 6) is anywhere near as successful as the first, and I’m reelected to Council, I’ll propose we try it again next year, perhaps on a few actual summer weekend days.
Q9: Are there any significant projects that should be undertaken outside of the downtown area and Islington Street corridor?
Yes, many, and they are in our six-year rolling Capital Improvement Plan — long-awaited projects like sidewalks and bike lanes for Peverly Hill Road, a multi-use side path on Elwyn Road, a new road to improve safety and traffic flow at the southernmost main intersection in Portsmouth — Route 1/Lafayette Road between Lang and Ocean roads. Development of Portsmouth’s 3.6 miles of the Hampton Branch Rail Trail, now that the state has finally acquired the corridor from Pan Am Railroad. The long, long-awaited construction of three new, artificial-turf playing fields off of Lafayette Road near the Community Campus. The even longer-awaited and deserved construction of sound barriers along I-95 close to neighborhoods like Pannaway Manor and the “Jewel” street neighborhood between Woodbury and Maplewood west of 95. (The notion that the city (City Council) only cares about the downtown or neglects the outlying areas of the city is a canard — look at the beautiful sidewalks and park in Atlantic Heights, or the Maple Haven playground — and everything else in the CIP. Provide your input on the next one by Oct. 15!
Q10: At times this summer, there were road closures on Islington Street, Woodbury Avenue (by the traffic circle), Maplewood Avenue, and other roads all at once. Is there a way to reduce the heavy concentration of road work that creates detours and traffic congestion in the summer?
Citizens should readily understand that summer is when the largest and most challenging infrastructure projects have to be undertaken — the days are long, the weather is good. It isn’t just “road work” — it’s necessary infrastructure upgrading — the network of water, sewer, and storm-water pipes, along with gas pipes that lie underneath and (sometimes) electrical lines — and sometimes we’re burying electrical lines for aesthetic reasons, as we will soon be doing on Fleet Street. The work on Islington Street that started while Maplewood Avenue, which started last year, was still being completed, was/is ALL of that, and very important. And, of course, all that’s dug up every day has to be put back and made functional every night, because people live and businesses depend on being able to use the roads even as everything under them is being replaced. Those projects were city projects, while the Woodbury Avenue bridge replacement (over Route 1 Bypass) is a state project — we didn’t control the timing of that.
Q11: What actions should be taken at the city level to address climate change?
Every action that possibly can be — improving the energy efficiency of city buildings and operations, reducing fossil-fuel use (i.e. transitioning our vehicle fleet to hybrids and electric vehicles whenever such an option exists), increasing the installation of renewable energy in the city (i.e. solar panels on city buildings and schools and a wind turbine out at the new Wastewater Treatment Plant on Peirce Island). We should, of course, continue our planning and adaptation measures with our property and infrastructure that we’ve begun under our Coastal Resilience Initiative.
Q12: Name one of the biggest challenges and one of the biggest opportunities Portsmouth will face in the next 10 to 20 years.
I believe that maintaining the vibrancy, vitality and attractiveness that Portsmouth has developed over the past 20 years for the rest of the century, in the face of the aging of the population (in the country, as well as in New Hampshire and in Portsmouth), could be a great challenge. We will need to continue to be attractive and hospitable to families and young people. However, one of the biggest opportunities for doing so is the amazing community we’ve built with the many features and amenities, and plans for improving it I’ve mentioned in earlier answers – we have to keep planning, choosing and executing well, and that’s why I want to continue serving on City Council.
BONUS: What are you gonna be for Halloween?
Not a shark-bitten surfer, as I was last year — but I haven’t come up with something new yet!