LEWISTON — A narrow vote against her downtown housing project won’t stop developer Phyllis St. Laurent, she said Tuesday.

Lewiston voted against the proposed development 6,820 to 6,278. That’s a difference of 542 votes.

St. Laurent said it’s a setback, but it won’t stop her. She said she’ll come back with a project that doesn’t use city lots, doesn’t need City Council approval and won’t be subject to a voter veto.

“It’ll be smaller, but I’ll rebuild,” she said. “It’ll be the same program; it’ll come back in the same way.

St. Laurent hoped to build 29 units in three buildings on eight lots for low- to moderate-income renters. There would have been 32 off-street parking spaces and a large green space between the buildings. Apartments would have been a mix of single-bedroom units, two-bedroom units and larger apartments.

The apartments would have replaced buildings she owned at 149 Bartlett St., and 110 and 114 Pierce St. that were destroyed in a rash of fires in May 2013. The project would have included five other empty lots owned by the city that had been tax acquired.

“The city has torn down 49 buildings this year, buildings that people just walked away from,” St. Laurent said. “Those are properties that are no longer paying taxes. We need to replace some of those buildings, and somebody has to start paying property taxes.”

That was wise thinking, according to voter Nicholas Strunk, a Bates College senior. He voted against the repeal and in favor of St. Laurent’s project.

“Affordable housing is very important because the cost of living has gone up so much over the fast few decades,” Strunk said. “With wages stagnating across the economy, it’s important to provide affordable housing for those who cannot afford it so that they have some disposable income they can provide back to the economy.”

Others were not so sure. Nancy Holt, 45, said Lewiston has enough low-income housing.

“I think we need to start thinking about getting more middle- and higher-income people in here,” she said.

Landlord Stan Pelletier said he was pleased with the result. He led the petition drive to repeal St. Laurent’s approval. Now, he hopes some other use can be found for the city lots.

“Why not put a dollar store down there, or a grocery or something for downtown people,” Pelletier said. “That’s what they need, something they can walk to. A little grocery store would be ideal.”

Ballot ‘confusing’

Voters complained the ballot question was confusing. A yes on Tuesday’s ballot was a vote to repeal the City Council’s decision in April allowing St. Laurent’s project.

The ballot included the entire City Council approval, a 382-word ordinance with 10 paragraphs and some specific housing development jargon.

Carol Carpentier of Lewiston said she voted against the development, but not easily.

“It was very confusing,” Carpentier said. “Unless you actually read the whole thing, you didn’t know. I knew how I wanted to vote, but I had to actually read it very carefully make sure I was doing it right.”

Richard Boulet, 69, said he intended to vote in support of St. Laurent’s housing project but misread the ballot, voting yes to support the repeal.

“If you said yes, she can’t rebuild? Well, I’m sorry, I did it wrong,” he said. “And there’s nothing I can do about that now.”

Mike Lacasse, 39, of Jefferson Street in Lewiston, voted to repeal as well.

“I was not educated enough, but I do believe we need to build that area up and take the projects out of project housing,” he said. “We have enough.”

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