The Westbrook City Council heeded the call of property owners who opposed a change in the zoning ordinance that would prohibit building on small lots.

The council voted to table the amendment and send it back to the Planning Board Monday, so that the board and staff could come up with design standards that would allow residents to continue to build on small lots, but prevent the new development from changing the character of existing neighborhoods.

Currently, so-called substandard lots of record – 5,000-square-foot lots that were subdivided before the current 7,500-square-foot minimum was put in place – are still considered buildable lots. The proposal to change the ordinance so that the small lots couldn’t be built on came about after councilors received calls from people who lived near houses that were built on small lots and who said those houses ruined their neighborhoods.

On the other side of the debate are the people who own substandard lots of record, but have yet to build on them. They came out in force to a Planning Board meeting earlier this month, and returned to send their message to the City Council Monday.

They said they’ve invested money in these lots, which will be worthless if they can’t be built on.

The Planning Board recommended to the City Council not to change the ordinance, but to put design standards in place that would address the architecture and size of houses built on small lots. The council unanimously voted to explore those design standards and revisit the issue later.

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