PORTSMOUTH — City councilors in Portsmouth voted to increase parking rates on seven busy downtown streets Monday night.
Parking officials expect to raise up to $240,000 a year by increasing rates to $2 an hour on sections of Hanover Street, Portwalk Place, High Street, Bow Street, Daniel Street, State Street and at the Ladd Street Lot.
Plans were to also increase the rates on Washington Street from State Street to Court Street, but the council’s plan was amended at the request of Mayor Jack Blalock, who pointed out that section of Washington Street is primarily residential.
“Washington Street doesn’t need to be involved at all,” Blalock said. “There aren’t a lot of parking spaces on it.”
The concept behind raising rates in high occupancy areas is that it will force turnover so more people can frequent local businesses.
Councilor Rick Becksted voted against the rate increase, asking why they can’t simply reduce the maximum amount of time allowed in a space if city officials want more turnover.
Blalock said in years past they upped the maximum time limit to three hours to accommodate people traveling into the city for dinner and entertainment.
“It does allow for the evening night out kind of thing,” Blalock said.
Becksted was the only city councilor who voted against the rate increase in the 8-1 vote.
On Tuesday, Becksted said raising parking rates on busy downtown streets hurts residents and workers.
“We have been on a money craze for the last few years,” Becksted said. “Parking has become a money maker in our town.”
Becksted pointed out that residents with a reduced rate will still have to pay $1.50 for parking. People who work in the city can’t necessarily park at one of the two public garages if they have large trucks or need to carry equipment to a job site, he said.
Becksted has been a proponent of waiting to raise rates until city officials can determine if the new Foundry Place public parking garage helps alleviate issues. That 600-space facility cost over $26 million and opened at the end of October.
“I’ve been saying, “Let’s see if the garage will fix issues with on-street parking, which is more expensive than parking in a garage,’” Becksted said.
The newly approved on-street parking rates will go into effect on Feb. 15.
During the holiday season, parking will be free in all of downtown Portsmouth at on-street parking meters. That will run from Dec. 16 until Dec. 25.
While parking is free for those 10 days leading up to Christmas, time limits will still be enforced, according to city officials.