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Council to discuss issue involving single-family homes and roommates

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Thompson Boulevard resident Deborah A. Cavallario is not alone in wanting to stop roommates from moving into a residential neighborhood and living in a single-family house.

Mrs. Cavallario gathered 80 signatures on a petition asking the Watertown City Council to prevent what has occurred in her neighborhood from continuing throughout the city. She brought up the issue last month at a city Planning Board meeting after learning that her neighbor Travis W. Hartman allowed three friends to move in with him in the house at 257 Thompson Blvd. that he purchased last February.

The petition requests that unrelated people not be allowed to live in a single-family house in a district zoned Residential A. Mrs. Cavallario contends that only a family should be allowed to live in a house in a Residential A zone.

In response, the city Planning Board this month recommended changing the code to crack down on unrelated people living together.

But the situation raises two questions: What makes up a family? And do homeowners have the right to say who lives in their homes? Opponents also have questioned how the change will be enforced.

To distinguish it from a club, fraternity or boarding house, a family consists of “any number of individuals living together as a single-housekeeping unit,” as long as they do not include more than four people who are not “blood relatives,” according to current city code.

Council members will decide on a resolution eliminating a single sentence from the city code pertaining to a reference allowing “no more than four transient roomers” to live in a house in a residential district.

Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith said Mr. Hartman and his roommates would be grandfathered in, so they won’t have to move if the resolution passes.

“It will stop it in the future,” he said.

Mr. Hartman, who could not be reached Thursday, said recently that his fiancée and a couple of his friends moved in with him. They are not tenants; they share only in the grocery bill, he said.

“I don’t want them to move out,” Mrs. Cavallario said Thursday. “They are not a problem, and they are a problem. I just don’t want the concept of it happening in a Residence A. I don’t think it should happen in the future.”

Mrs. Cavallario said that as she went door to door, all but two people she talked to signed the petition. The 80 others agreed that Residential A districts should remain single-family homes, she said.

The matter will be discussed at a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4. The council could vote on the change in city code that night.

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