Lewiston landlords challenge housing project

LEWISTON — A group of landlords hope to challenge the city's approval of a low-income housing project downtown.

"We already have a lot of low-income property, and this won't contribute to our tax base," Darcy Reed, who owns two units downtown, said.

"Just as a taxpayer, this concerns me," Reed said. "Even if I were not a landlord, I'd still be fired up about this."

Reed is also running for the City Council seat in Ward 4, challenging incumbent Doreen Christ.

Councilors narrowly approved a plan on Sept. 17 by Volunteers of America to build a housing development on four lots where buildings burned May 3, at 110 and 114 Pierce St. and 145 and 149 Bartlett St.

Reed was among a group of landlords that spoke against the project at the City Council's meeting. She said private local landlords who are struggling financially can't provide tenants the amenities the project would offer, but can't match low rents the project would charge.

Reed is collecting signatures to put the matter to a referendum. She needs to collect 10 signatures on a sheet at the Lewiston City Clerk's office to be granted a full petition. She'll have 60 days to collect 859 signature if the petition is released.

"The biggest issue is all of the exceptions and tax breaks they are looking to get on the land," Reed said. "It's going to cost us a lot of tax money, but it is really unnecessary."

City Clerk Kathy Montejo said the city's attorney was reviewing Reed's proposal to make sure it is valid.

The project would replace buildings burned in a downtown blaze on May 3.

Councilors voted 4-3 at their Sept. 17 meeting to invest about $150,000 in the project. That includes the $72,694 the city has already spent cleaning up the site and demolishing the burned-out properties.

With Councilor Don D'Auteuil absent from the meeting, Councilors John Butler, Nate Libby, Craig Saddlemire and Mark Cayer voted in favor. Councilors Doreen Christ, Richard Desjardins and Mayor Robert Macdonald voted against it.

According to the proposed deal, the city would convey the properties to Volunteers of America Northern New England at no cost. The council also agreed to waive all development and building permit fees on the project — about $17,400 according to City staff — and to create a 15-year Tax Increment Finance District. That would rebate about half of the property taxes Volunteers of America would pay on the development.

If the project qualifies for tax credits from Maine Housing, it could be ready for tenants by 2015. It would have 30 housing units — 14 two-bedroom units, 11 three-bedroom units and five four-bedroom units. One unit would be set aside for an on-site property manager. The rest would be available to Section 8 voucher recipients.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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Comments

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I can't help.........

I can't help but to be drawn back to the early nineties. A huge fire wiped out a large swath on Bartlett, as well as Birch St. I believe. Friends Deli was rebuilt as well as a few new apartment buildings on Bartlet. There was all all the pomp and circumstance, all the ribbon cutting that goes along with any new development in a downtown environment. I remember how nice the new buildings looked all shiny and new. I could only imagine how nice all the apartments must be. I also wondered how one would be chosen for such a privileged. I mean moving into a brand new building is not something that happens every day downtown.
Now it's six months later. Those new buildings are already showing the tell tale signs of neglect. Trash in the yards, a few broken windows and at least on front security door kicked in, only able to close about half way.
As infuriated as I was over someone destroying a security door on such a nice building, I kept an eye on the area, That broken door wasn't touched for a year or more.
Slowly those shiny new buildings, began to blend right in to the surrounding buildings. It actually made me, a resident of Lewiston at the time, furious. How could they have taken such a great opportunity, brand new buildings, and turn them into what burned down. I would bet that very few people could walk down Bartlett St. today, and point out which buildings were rebuilt brand new just 19 years ago. There's no distinction any more.
I guess my vote would be for the city to build a bunch of crappy apartment buildings, already equipt with broken doors, assorted trash and maybe an abandoned washing machine or two in the hallway.
At least this way the new buildings can be trashed to the city's satisfaction. Eliminating the possibility of the trashing being done by amateurs. We need uniformity..............

Jake Paris's picture

Ha!

I don't necessarily agree Frank, but points for being hilarious! Yeah, that building on the corner, if I'm thinking of the right one, big giant white building on the corner of walnut and bartlett, is a craphole. But I will say that the owner of the buildings which burned down on pierce/bartlett actually took pretty good care of the building.

Randall Pond's picture

Get A LIFE Darcy Reed!

Landlords around and some I would call Scumlords and Slumlords want to charge OUTRAGEOUS Prices on Rent and then do not keep up their buildings and the city looks like HELL! It's Time to Clean up The City and Get The Trash and Trouble out of Here! It's also Time to HOLD ALL LANDLORDS in The TWIN CITIES, ACCOUNTABLE! You Need to Keep your Buildings Up to Code and Updated and The Yards CLEAN! Buildings you Chose Not to do this with that are in Disrepair Need to be Torn Down!

The Fires that Happened in April and May are Claimed to be done by kids and two young adults that are tired of the way the city looks and they were treated!

It's Hell High Time We Take Back Our City and CLEAN IT UP! If people cannot do this whether private building owners or landlords Monies should be made available to help but, you cannot keep jacking up the rent prices. Lewiston Auburn Will NEVER Be Portland/South Portland or any other Major Twin Cities. We are what we are and it up to ALL of US to Work for a CHANGE for the Good.

If Cheaper Housing can do this, I am ALL FOR IT!

Jake Paris's picture

Randall, cheaper housing

Randall, cheaper housing can't do that. If you are tired of the way the city looks, one way you can help is by going outside with your friends and picking up trash. Think about how clean things would get if we ALL actually helped out instead of just bitching about it. That said, I think the problem lies equally with the landlords and the tenants. It makes no sense to blame one and not the other. What people need to do, landlords and tenants alike, is to take some responsibility and stop thinking "It's not my problem"

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