Quality of Place

The City Council and City staff work to meet the following specific goals addressing the quality of place for residents, businesses and visitors to Portsmouth:

  • Integrate sustainability, resilience, and climate change mitigation actions throughout City government and community.
  • Invite and engage the entire community, especially those traditionally unreached, to increase participation and transparency in government.
  • Support the needs of residents, businesses, nonprofits, arts and cultural institutions by leveraging City and local resources.
  • Deliver services and programs with courtesy, professionalism, and efficiency.
  • Meet or exceed State and Federal legal/regulatory requirements including those for a safe and healthy community and environment.
  • Maintain and improve infrastructure to meet needs of the community.

Continuing initiatives include:

  • Climate Action Plan, “Portsmouth’s Climate Future”
    The Climate Action Plan is intended to integrate climate adaptation planning into the City’s local planning and regulatory framework, to advance the City’s objectives as an Eco-Municipality and empower and encourage residents, businesses, visitors, and City staff to take action to reduce and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
  • Cultural Plan
    The Cultural Plan was adopted in March 2024 and developed through a process of inclusive community consultation and decision-making. This plan, last done in 2002, is designed to help Portsmouth’s leaders identify cultural resources, think strategically about how these resources can help the community to achieve its civic goals, and create a rich cultural environment for all. This plan is a foundational pillar for the upcoming update to the Citywide Master Plan. For more information, visit: portsnh.co/2023CulturalPlan. 
  • Groundwater Monitoring Project
    In FY25 and in support of the Coastal Resilience Initiative, the City takes a closer look at impacts to municipal infrastructure as the impacts of sea level rise and coastal flooding increase. This study, which includes monitoring equipment to better understand the flow of groundwater over time will help identify where issues with infrastructure are going to occur.
  • Conservation Land Acquisition
    The City Water Division Bellamy Reservoir Source Protection Plan has identified fifteen (15) key parcels in the Bellamy watershed for preservation through acquisition and/or easements. Each parcel was ranked by the City based on size, percent wetlands, development potential, slope, length of shoreline, proximity to water supply intake, and aesthetics. The Water Division continues to collaborate with the town of Madbury, the Seacoast Land Trust (SELT), and private property owners to protect the land surrounding the reservoir, Portsmouth’s primary water supply. 
  • East Coast Greenway
    The Department of Public Works continues to work on initiatives such as a walking and biking trail to connect the public to the East Coast Greenway trail, which is scheduled to be completed by the NH Department of Transportation (NHDOT) in Fall 2024.
  • Stormwater Division Outreach – “Think Blue
    The City’s Stormwater Division of the Department of Public Works continues to create and implement informative and engaging public information campaigns including:
    • Postcard and video campaigns focusing on lawn care, yard waste, and pet waste, with consistent “Think Blue” branding and web page links for more information;
    • Participation in citywide events including Earth Day with Seacoast sustainability;
    • Household hazardous waste collection days offered in April and October; and
    • Quarterly Safe Water Advisory Group (City Council Advisory Committee) meetings in collaboration with the Water and Stormwater Divisions to raise public awareness of the Great Bay Watershed and residents’ impact.
  • Tree City USA
    Every year the Department of Public Works – Parks & Greenery Division, along with the City’s Trees & Public Greenery Committee, continues the City’s Arbor Day Foundation goals. Portsmouth has achieved Tree City USA recognition for over twenty years by meeting the program’s four requirements: a tree board or department, a tree-care ordinance, an annual community forestry budget of at least two dollars per capita, and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
  • Portsmouth Energy Advisory Committee (PEAC)
    The Portsmouth Community Power program manages the City’s participation in the Community Power Coalition of NH program. PEAC continues to provide education, outreach, and support for residents to take advantage of the program. PEAC will also provide expertise and analysis as the City considers other renewable energy projects and opportunities.
  • Community Housing and the Housing Navigator
    The City and City Council has prioritized the goal to “to enhance the supply of housing choices, especially the supply of below-market rate housing options.” The Housing Navigator, funded through a state grant from InvestNH, is responsible for the following initiatives:
    • Support ongoing collaboration and best practices in partnership with the Portsmouth Housing Authority (PHA);
    • Follow up and build on the Portsmouth Listens Study Circle Dialogue, “Places to Live” in collaboration with the PHA and the Housing Blue Ribbon Committee; and
    • Advance goals and objectives set by the City Council’s Land Use Committee Work Group and Blue Ribbon Committee on Housing.
  • Open Space Plan
    The City’s Open Space Plan provides a blueprint to improve open space land for public access, use, and stewardship, and to improve connectivity between open space assets Citywide. The Open Space Plan complements the green street initiatives and sustainable site development initiatives incorporated in the City.
  • Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan 2025
    This update to the 2014 Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan is intended to comprehensively inventory all of the City’s bike and pedestrian accommodations, evaluate current and future needs and prioritize systemwide improvements. The revised report will address strategies identified in the Climate Action Plan and will inform the upcoming Citywide Master Plan.
  • Market Square Master Plan
    The Market Square Master Plan initiative is designed to explore and document proposed changes for Market Square with vigorous community input, design consultants, and an advisory group for a plan that will inform the upcoming Citywide Master Plan. The planning concepts derived from this effort will form a foundation for the design of needed infrastructure upgrades and enhancements to Market Square.
  • Citywide Master Plan 2035
    The Planning & Sustainability Department works with the City’s Planning Board, Zoning Board of Adjustment, Historic District Commission, Technical Advisory Committee, Conservation Commission, various other City departments, property owners, and developers to manage growth in the City in accordance with the Citywide Master Plan. Work on the updated plan will begin in FY25 once the foundational documents, including the Cultural Plan, Climate Action Plan, Bike/Pedestrian Plan, Market Square Master Plan, and the Parking Utilization Study, are completed. The consultant selected for the task will engage in rigorous community outreach. An update to the Historic District Commission guidelines is included in this initiative.
  • Community Health Needs Study
    The Community Health Needs Study recommends that the City should henceforth be incorporating a “Health in All Policies” approach to future planning, and making sure the City’s vulnerable populations are considered in all planning.” 
  • Home Lead Paint Testing
    The City of Portsmouth Health and Water Departments provided free test kits for homeowners to test their drinking water and paint for the presence of lead. While the City Water System has no lead pipes and tests regularly, as required, to confirm there are no detectable levels of lead in drinking water, older homes may have lead pipes or pipe connections that used lead solder. Older housing stock is also at risk for contamination by lead paint which was not banned until 1978. The City of Portsmouth Inspection Department is also working on steps to reinforce its program to inspect rental properties for the presence of lead paint.