Watertown Council Discusses 'Roommate Law'


The so-called roommate law that's gained international attention was the talk at the Watertown city council meeting Monday night.

Two of the council members who voted for the zoning change say it's been blown out of proportion.

"What it's been portrayed in the media and what it actually is are at complete odds," said council member Joe Butler.

"We can't do the reporting and not everybody watches the council meetings," said council member Jeff Smith.

"I would agree with the public that if there was a no-roommate law in the city of Watertown -- that's absurd," Smith said.

The controversy started on Thompson Boulevard after Debbie Cavallario learned her neighbors weren't a traditional family.

Her next-door neighbor, Travis Hartman, lives with his fiancee and two of his friends.

Cavallario presented a petition to the city planning board to stop housing arrangements like that from happening.

The change in the zoning law simply removes a line that allows no more than four transient roomers to live together in what's called a Residential A district.

The council voted 3 to 2 to remove the line, even though city officials said the change would be unenforceable.

Smith said he voted for the change to prevent boarding houses from popping up.

"Really, in my opinion, preserve Residential A districts, so that they didn't become rooming houses or boarding houses," Smith said.

The mayor, who voted against the change, suggested that everything be put back to the way it was and that the definition of family in the city code be changed to be more modern.

There was one thing the council did agree on: people should stop harassing Cavallario.
Friday, December 9, 2016
, Watertown, NY

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