The controversial application to build a synagogue on Ludlow Road will remain open, the Planning and Zoning Commission ruled Thursday night, with further discussion scheduled for next Thursday's meeting.

Supporters of Beit Chaverim Synagogue of Westport/Norwalk and neighbors opposed to the proposal continued Thursday night to debate a project that was first proposed five years ago.

Beit Chaverim Synagogue of Westport/Norwalk is seeking P&Z approval for a site plan and special permit to build an approximately 4,000-square-foot, one-story center at 24 Ludlow Road. The existing structures -- a vacant three-story building and a cottage with one tenant -- on the land would be demolished.

Opponents are concerned about the impact the synagogue's construction will have on traffic, parking and sewers.

"I'm sensitive, as you are, to the fact the neighbors are opposed to this and have been for a long time," said Larry Weisman, the lawyer representing the synagogue. "But this is not a referendum, that's not your job."

In 2009, the commission approved an application for construction of a smaller synagogue, but Beit Chaverim did not move ahead with construction. Instead, the congregation devised new plans that have been submitted and withdrawn several times in the last few years.

The debate Thursday largely focused on whether the latest plans are "materially different" from the 2009 proposal to warrant a change in the commission's decision.

Weisman said the plans were not materially different, but Stephen Nevas, the lawyer representing 23 families opposed to the project, said they are.

A resolution to the matter doesn't seem close at hand.

"It's a tough call," Weisman said. "I think that whatever happens here, it's going to wind up in court."

P&Z Chairwoman Cathy Walsh said she agreed.