Where can Watertown warming centers be built? It’s a topic for updating zoning ordinances

Published: Nov. 25, 2022 at 3:59 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - ”The unfortunate and the hard part about codes and zoning is, you have to look at your book ends, meaning what could be,” said Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith.

And it’s what could be that has Smith concerned.

In the city’s draft zoning ordinance, so called “warming centers” to help the homeless are now being defined as adult daycares, which could be built in 3 of the 8 proposed districts that make up the city.

Those districts are scattered throughout Watertown, many on main roads like Washington, State and Coffeen Streets.

Smith is ultimately worried that too many of the possible zoned locations back up to residential areas.

“I don’t know if many single family people that are going to say ‘you know, we have a two year old kid and next to that is going to be a great place to raise a child’,” said Smith.

Other members on council, however, don’t see it that way. They say there needs to be a solution to the homeless problem.

“We have three people on the council right now that have an interest in seeing this problem resolved in the best way for those that are homeless, and the rest of the residents in the city want this done,” said Council Member Cliff Olney.

“If you don’t have a location, you have nothing. I think that we have to identify a spot in the city where this would work,” said Council Member Lisa Ruggiero.

7 News did reach out to the Watertown Area Rescue Mission, or WARM, to see how the process is going on bringing a warming center to Watertown, but we did not hear back.

The city will have one more open house to get feedback on the zoning ordinance before the end of the year.

Then, the draft will be sent to the appropriate planning boards for approval.