The Westbrook City Council wants voters to decide whether to reverse a zone change for land off Stroudwater Street – even though reversing it might be illegal.

The council voted 6-1 Monday, with Councilor Mike Foley opposed, to hold a referendum June 10 on whether to overturn the council’s decision to rezone the 60-acre parcel, once slated for a shopping mall and later purchased by Portland developer J.B. Brown & Sons.

In February, the council voted to rezone the property from a contract zone, developed specifically for the retail project that never got off the ground, to two zones, one for commercial development on 45 acres near the Westbrook Arterial and the other for housing on the 15 acres near Stroudwater Street.

J.B. Brown bought the land after the zone was changed.

Jason Snyder, the retail project’s developer who owned the land before it went into foreclosure, initiated a citizens petition to overturn the zone change and collected the signatures necessary to do so.

Lawyers for the city and J.B. Brown, however, believe it’s illegal to impose a contract zone on an unwilling landowner.

The city’s administration recommended that the council vote not to hold the referendum. Although a couple of councilors said they believe reverting to the contract zone would be unfair and likely illegal, they said they felt they had to allow the question to go out to voters.

Representatives of J.B. Brown said, if the zone change is overturned, they will challenge the decision in court.

The council also voted Monday to hold a referendum June 10 on whether to spend $8.7 million to renovate and expand the city’s Public Services Department facility.

The council must take final votes on both referendum questions.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: @lesliebridgers