Portsmouth’s municipal election is Tuesday, Nov. 2. Below, City Council candidate Beth Moreau responds to PortsmouthNH.com’s candidate questionnaire.
Occupation: Residential Real Estate Attorney and business owner
Civic experience: Portsmouth Planning Board Vice Chair 7 years; Chair of Demolition Committee since enacted; Commissioner with Rockingham Planning Commission; former Board Member of Haven; former President of Sexual Assault Support Services Board of Directors
Years living in Portsmouth: 21
1) Do you think the city should impose any new measures or mandates related to the COVID-19 pandemic at this time?
I think that the measures taken to date are appropriate based on the current state of the pandemic. That said, the next City Council will need to be flexible and make adjustments as the pandemic evolves and comes to an end. The first priority is to ensure that students and educators in our schools remain safe while benefiting from in-person education and safe after-school athletics and events. The City Council must support efforts by the City Manager to keep all municipal workers safe while effectively carrying out their vital work. Lastly, local business owners need to be consulted to understand what has worked best of the actions taken to date and make more permanent changes to codify best practices and rework spaces to allow businesses to quickly adapt to any similar health crisis in the future.
2) Do you think the Prescott Park Master Plan should be updated in any way? Specifically, do you think the stage should be temporary or permanent? Covered or uncovered?
The Prescott Park Master Plan is currently beginning implementation of its phase one. A detailed public process was used to create the current master plan, always with the direction of a “Park first” mentality. The land was a donation to the city and City Council needs to honor the request of the donor for this to always remain a park open to all the public. As a City Councilor I would support following the current master plan regarding any structures on the property, revising it only if a similar full and complete public process was used.
3) How do you feel about the current pace of development in Portsmouth?
Ten years ago, the city began a process to shape zoning within the city to ensure that all future buildings would have a similar size and character as the buildings surrounding them. Character based zoning was enacted by the City Council for the downtown area and then a second public process was done for the north end. Portsmouth has become a very desirable city for people to live, work and vacation. As a City Council we need to start the process to review the current zoning and, if need be, make adjustments that will allow the city to manage its growth not just today but for years to come.
4) What, if anything, do you think should be done to increase access to affordable housing?
The City needs to look at regional planning regarding affordable housing. The lack of affordable housing is a statewide issue that one town or city cannot fix on their own. Through the Rockingham Planning Commission, we can begin long-term discussions around how our region can work to improve the housing crisis existing now. Along with a regional approach, we need to look at buildings and land the City currently owns to see what opportunities exist for the City to develop them with the help of Portsmouth Housing Authority to create affordable, workforce housing projects.
5) What changes, if any, should be made to the city’s bike lanes?
Portsmouth’s master plan, which was developed based on input from concerned citizens with varied perspectives, calls for a more bikeable and walkable city. According to the City’s Complete Streets Policy (adopted in October 2013), the City has committed to “approach every transportation improvement and project phase as an opportunity to create safer, more accessible street for all users,” and to use the best and latest design standards available. Through these policies we need to follow the guidance of the experts as to the best plan for the existing and future bike lanes in support of the master plan’s objectives.
6) Regarding the McIntyre building, what do you feel is the best path forward to avoid litigation and get the project done?
After two years the current City Council is at odds with the McIntyre developer and stayed litigation is looming over the project. Until this litigation is dismissed this project will not be able to move forward. The current plan will cost millions of City taxpayer dollars to build. Moving forward, the City needs to negotiate in good faith to restore a relationship with the developer so that this project can not only get approved but also finally built. This project needs to be a revenue generator and not, as it is now, a taxpayer burden.
7) What additional measures do you think the city should take to slow climate change and prepare for its impacts?
The City of Portsmouth, has taken steps towards influencing climate change, but I believe there is more that can be done. I am not the expert on climate change, but I know that it is a real issue that needs to be addressed. As a City Councilor, I will seek out information from the experts in this area to see how Portsmouth can continue to curb climate change and adjust infrastructure and development to reflect the potential impacts of sea-level rise.
8) Do you support the idea of seasonal road closures and/or barriers to accommodate outdoor dining at restaurants — even after the pandemic has (hopefully) subsided?
Yes, I believe the use of public spaces for outdoor dining has been a success and should continue. The City Council will need to look at the cost and loss of revenue aspects to be certain it is not a financial burden on the city, but I believe it has been well received by the city and should continue.
9) What do you think the council can do to cultivate an environment of respect and collaboration and minimize hostility in local government?
The City Council needs to go back to being a policy creating board that gives proper direction to the City Manager. By ending micromanagement and showing respect for the experts we have hired, we can bring civility back to Portsmouth and local government. When issues arise, we need to hear the issues then address those with policies, so we are properly planning for long-term impact to the City.
10) Aside from the issues already raised in this questionnaire, please outline ONE other priority you would address as a city councilor over the next two years.
Attracting and retaining businesses to the City. One of the biggest issues for current City businesses is staffing, which is closely tied to the state’s housing crisis and aging population. If we can expand affordable housing options, we will attract younger families who will provide the labor force businesses need. There are success stories with large Portsmouth-based businesses such as Lonza Biologics, which is planning a massive expansion, and Heinemann Publishing, which just relocated and expanded its business to Maplewood Ave. It appears that much of the new housing stock that has been created in the past couple of years is supportive of housing workers for these larger businesses. In September, the Seacoast Shipyard Association published its annual report that indicates where workers for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard live. Portsmouth now has the largest number of shipyard workers of anyplace in New Hampshire, showing an increase from 284 in 2019 to 517 in 2020. Expanding this trend to include housing for small and mid-size businesses with lesser salary ranges can help to promote growth in those businesses as well.
BONUS: What are you gonna be for Halloween?
To see other candidates’ responses, click here.