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Mayor criticizes game host’s remark about city prohibiting roommates from living together


City council members might reconsider the zoning ordinance passed last month that forbids roommates from moving into a residential neighborhood and living in a single-family house after the zoning change got some notoriety over the weekend from game show host and comedian Drew Carey.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said Monday morning that he hopes the Watertown City Council will reconsider the zoning change when council members meet tonight.

The issue got the attention of Mr. Carey, the host of the CBS game show “The Price is Right, tweeted after reading on the Daily Mail, a British online news site, that the City Council passed such an ordinance prohibiting non-family members from living together.

On Friday, Mr. Carey tweeted “Please welcome… the Deborah Cavallario ‘No Roommates Allowed’ law from the dumb-asses in Watertown, NY.”

Today, the mayor said he was concerned that the ordinance is casting the city in a negative light. He was surprised when it passed, the mayor said.

“It looked like the local issue was dead, but it’s gotten international attention and it’s now a big deal,” he said, adding he hopes that council members look at the issue again “to find a graceful way out.”

The issue first came up in December after Thompson Boulevard resident Deborah A. Cavallario, a former city school board member, found out that next-door neighbor Travis W. Hartman, a city public works employee, lived with his fiance and two friends in his single-family home at 257 Thompson Blvd. She objected because it’s a residential neighborhood with only single-family homes. The neighborhood is zoned as Residential A.

Today, the mayor surmised that council members passed it without considering “the unintended consequences.” He was also surprised that Mr. Carey “used such a broad stroke” to criticize the people of Watertown. He believes Mr. Carey should apologize for his comments.

Mr. Graham was joined by Councilwoman Teresa R. Macaluso to oppose the change. Council members Joseph M. Butler Jr., Jeffrey M. Smith and Roxanne M. Burns voted for it. The two sides disagreed whether the change would mean the city was defining what makes up a family.

Noting the mayor tried to lobby her on Sunday, Ms. Burns said it would take a lot of thought before she changed her mind. Despite what some people have said, Ms. Burns is convinced that Watertown “is a tolerant town,” adding that “a lot of misinformation out there.”

She also received a telephone call on Sunday from a woman who was afraid the change would impact her and her live-in boyfriend. The woman actually lives in Adams Center.

“It has nothing to do with Adams,” Ms. Burns said.

After reading the Daily Mail item, a California woman, Eryne Daymont, also began circulating a petition contending that the zoning change should be rescinded because “one woman should not decide how modern families should be constructed,” she wrote on her blog posting.

“Tell Watertown City Council that families are more than blood lines and marriage certificates. New Yorkers will not be forced out of our homes,” she wrote.

As of late Monday morning, 1,364 people from across the country have signed it, with a goal of collecting 2,000.

Mrs. Cavallario, who lives at 259 Thompson Blvd., first brought up the issue with the city’s Planning Board, which recommended making the change in the zoning ordinance. She also gathered 80 signatures on a petition requesting that unrelated people not be allowed to live in a single-family house in a district zoned Residential A.

Opponents have expressed doubt the zoning change can be enforced.

The City Council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the third-floor council chambers at City Hall, 246 Washington St,

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