LEWISTON — A downtown reception and special event venue in the former St. Patrick Church won zoning approval Tuesday night.

Councilors voted 7-0 to approve a conditional zoning change for developer Andrew Knight and his plans to renovate the former church at 220 Bates St., which looks over Kennedy Park.

Knight plans to create a venue for weddings, receptions and conferences. The proposed zoning change would allow the facility to serve food and alcohol. His plan got the nod from the city’s Planning Board last month. Tuesday, it was the City Council’s chance to review Knight’s plans. They approved it unanimously with no debate.

Only Lewiston attorney Chris L’Hommedieu, who owns 190 Bates St., commented on the issue. L’Hommedieu applauded the development and said the matter deserved more public debate.

“It’s a part of town that is largely ignored,” he said. “While I expect you are going to pass this unanimously, the impact on me and other folks who want to help develop that part of town is going to be huge.”

The diocese and the city’s Prince of Peace Parish closed both St. Joseph Church on Main Street and St. Patrick in 2009 because of dwindling congregations and mounting expenses for maintenance.

Knight, an out-of-state real estate developer, told the Sun Journal last month that he had been searching for a church building to renovate and found the for sale ad for St. Patrick on the Internet. He had already visited churches in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and elsewhere.

Plans call for light remodeling in the former church with more extensive work on the next-door rectory.

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