Zone change on 60-acre lot is kept in place by voters

Westbrook voters decided Tuesday not to overturn a zone change for 60 acres off Westbrook Arterial, allowing a proposed development to move forward and likely avoiding a lawsuit.

Also Tuesday, the city’s residents approved borrowing $9 million for a renovated and expanded public services facility and passed a $34 million school budget.

The zoning question came from a citizens petition, initiated by former landowner Jason Snyder, to overturn a decision by the City Council in February to split land between Westbrook Arterial and Stroudwater Street into two zones – 15 acres for commercial development and 45 acres for residential development.

The land had been under a contract zone developed for a massive retail project, proposed by Snyder, that never got off the ground. He lost the property in foreclosure.

The zoning was changed to make way for a project proposed by Portland developer J.B. Brown & Sons, which has since purchased the land.

Lawyers for J.B. Brown and the city have said they believe it would be illegal to impose a contract zone on an unwilling landowner. With the 1,110-702 vote against repealing the zone change, they won’t have to worry about it.

The school budget of $1.7 million or 5.2 percent higher than the current budget, was approved, 1,289-524.

Increases in spending include additional staff in the English language learners and special education programs, potential salary increases from new contracts and replacement laptops for high school students.

With the tax rate offset by additional revenue from the state, the budget adds $14 to the annual tax bill for a $200,000 home.

Residents also voted, 1,082-741, to borrow $9 million for an upgrade of the city’s Public Services Department facility. The project also allows the department to consolidate its services into one facility.

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