NEW MILFORD — A contentious, sometimes confusing and partisan debate over a zone-change amendment some fear would pave the way for a Wal-Mart Supercenter on Route 7 was continued without a vote on Tuesday night.

More than 70 residents attended a Zoning Commission meeting on a request to change 39.5 acres behind the Windmill Diner on Route 7 from restricted industrial to industrial. The owners of the property, represented by Town Councilor Paul Szymanski, have not revealed the potential buyer and developer of the land, but the change would open the way for a big-box retail shopping center.

A second public hearing, in a larger room, has been scheduled for Oct. 25.

Mayor David Gronbach, a Democrat, has criticized the zone change and said he opposes a new Wal-Mart. He has criticized Szmyanski, a Republican, for not revealing the potential developer, and members of the town’s Planning Commission, which voted 3 to 2 along party lines, to forward the change to the Zoning Commission.

On Tuesday, foes came out in force with 19 residents or business owners speaking against the change.

One by one, they asked the commission to deny the amendment, citing the proposal’s secrecy and the fear a zone change would bring more big retail and traffic to the already retail-heavy, congested area

“Please, commissioners, we voted for you to protect our town, not to give it away,” said Patricia Greenspan, one of less than half of the crowd to secure a seat.

At the previous Planning Commission meeting, Republicans found the zone change complies with the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development, while Democrats wanted the town to conduct a market study before approving the proposal. People at Tuesday’s meeting said they didn’t need a survey to know the town already has enough retail space.

“I’ve lived in New Milford for 34 years, and I don’t even recognize it anymore,” said Dan Ferris. Big-box retail had already killed off many beloved stores, he added, saying a change allowing more retail space would further hurt the town.

After losing the vote at their meeting, Planning Commission Democrats attended the Zoning Commission meeting to offer a “minority report” said Planning Commissioner John Kane.

In a letter submitted to the Zoning Commission, Kane and fellow Democrat Jon Seidman wrote: “(We) feel it is important for the zoning commissioners to consider some issues which were not thoroughly vetted or were possibly misunderstood by the majority who voted in favor of the zone change, thinking that the zone change was in accordance with the POCD. It is not.”

Planning Commission Republicans have said the property could be zoned industrial, and the re-zoning would make the large parcel easier to sell.

“The POCD is our bible,” Republican commission member Joseph Girardot said Thursday. “It is not for us to judge the wisdom of the proposed project, which we don’t know.”

Down Route 7, the town’s commercial corridor, are several empty retail spaces, concerned residents told the commission. “Why open the door for more?” most of them asked.

“If, as is widely believed, a Super Wal-Mart is proposed, I, along with a majority, of the business community will oppose it,” Gronbach said last week.

The company failed in a 2013 bid to open a Supercenter a half-mile north of the Docktor brothers land on Danbury Road. Through that process, it had other companies work on its behalf, like Szymanski’s A.H. Howland is doing for the executors of the Docktor brothers property now.

Also in attendance Tuesday were Willing Biddle and Kristen Gizzi, who manage shopping plazas on Route 7. Though neither commented Tuesday, both have been opposed to the zone change along Route 7.

“It’s already very challenging finding tenants,” Gizzi has said. “I don’t think anyone wants to see an oversaturation of retail. That doesn’t benefit anybody.”