A long-standing court dispute between the city and a group of residents opposed to a new Wal-Mart ended last week with a judgment nullifying a zoning change at the site of a former dowel mill where the retail giant had once planned to build a new store.

The judgment will not affect the present development plans for the property that was once home to Saunders Brothers, according to members of the group Westbrook Our Home and the city.

The owner of the property, J.B. Brown & Sons, a Portland firm that develops and manages commercial properties, is leasing the buildings to Woodfords Family Services, a nonprofit that provides services to children and adults with special needs.

The court decision issued Sept. 28 was the final result of a complaint Westbrook Our Home filed in August 2004, the same month the city council voted to change the zoning at the property from industrial to gateway commercial, a zoning district that allowed large retail stores. After changing the zoning, the city adopted additional restrictions for large retail stores, and, ultimately, Wal-Mart decided not to move forward with its plans.

In deciding in favor of Westbrook Our Home, Judge Thomas Delahanty ruled that the city had not provided members of the group with all information relevant to the zoning change and an adequate opportunity to be heard.

“I’m pleased the court saw it the way we did, but I want to focus on good things that have happened since and the future, and not focus on the past disagreements and negative emotion,” said Eileen Shutts, a member of Westbrook Our Home. “It’s time to move on.”

Erik Carson, the city’s director of economic and community development, said J.B. Brown & Sons was aware of the pending court dispute as it redeveloped the property. He said the planned use is allowed under the old industrial zoning.

Carson said Woodfords Family Services is expected to move to the property this month. The organization is planning to move its offices, along with 75 to 80 employees, and a day care that will serve 40 to 45 children, to the site.

Anne Bureau, another member of Westbrook Our Home, was among a group of residents who toured the property about a month ago. She said she didn’t have any concerns about the new tenants and felt it would fit well in the neighborhood.


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