WESTBROOK — A citizens’ petition to repeal a zoning change for land on Stroudwater Street might not get on the city ballot, even though enough signatures were certified to put it there.

The City Council voted Monday not to schedule a public hearing on the petition, initiated by a former landowner, Jason Snyder, who wants to revert back to the contract zone approved for Stroudwater Place, the massive retail center he proposed in 2008.

That project never got off the ground. The land was foreclosed on last year.

In February, the council rezoned the 60-acre property – for commercial use on 45 acres and housing on 15 acres – and the land was sold to J.B. Brown & Sons, a developer in Portland.

On Monday, J.B. Brown’s president, Vincent Veroneau, and Westbrook’s attorney, Natalie Burns, questioned the legality of the petition.

“It’s done, I think, out of spite, and illegal,” Veroneau said.

Burns said she consulted with attorneys from the Maine Municipal Association who had the same opinion she had. “I don’t think you can impose a contract zone without two parties agreeing to it,” she said.

Burns, however, recommended that the council “let it go out to vote,” and a court could decide the matter if the legality were challenged.

Instead, the council moved to prevent a referendum and voted 3-3, with Council President Brendan Rielly absent, not to hold a public hearing, which is required before any question is put on the ballot.

Burns advised the council to take another vote April 14 to decide whether to hold the referendum.

Councilor John O’Hara, who voted to hold the hearing, said that allowing the citizens’ petition is an essential part of the democratic process.

“It is not a waste of time. It is not a pain in the neck. It is the process,” he said.

Snyder, who showed up near the end of the meeting, said he came to the council chambers after getting a call about the vote.

“A lot of people want to have the right to make this decision,” he said, noting the 1,232 signatures on the petition.

“By not moving this and allowing this to be on the ballot in June is a massive disenfranchisement of the citizens of Westbrook,” he said. “This is not out of spite. This is the right thing.”

Also Monday, the City Council moved a different question toward the ballot in June.

The council scheduled a public hearing April 28 on whether to hold a referendum on spending $8.7 million to renovate and expand the Public Services Department facility on Saco Street.

If approved by voters June 10, the project will allow the consolidation of maintenance for public services equipment, public safety vehicles and school buses. The maintenance is now done in various buildings.

City officials say the Public Services Department facility is in dire need of upgrades, including a new heating and ventilation system, which would cost more than the proposed project.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

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Twitter: @lesliebridgers