PUBLISHED: 11:16 EST, 1 March 2013 | UPDATED: 12:11 EST, 1 March 2013
A town in upstate New York has has banned unrelated roommates from living together, in a move that has outraged some residents who claim the town is discriminating against non-traditional families
Deborah Cavallario became upset last year that her neighbor lived with his fiancee and two friends in a house together. She asked the city council of Watertown, NY to pass a zoning regulation that would prevent unrelated roommates from sharing a house together.
The neighbor, 27-year-old Travis Hartman, said he rented out the room to his friends to help cover the mortgage on his home.
Neighborly feud: Deborah Cavallario (left) complained that her neighbor Travis Hartman (right) shared a house with his fiancee and two friends
In a debate before the city council in late 2012, Mrs Cavallario had described Hartman as a good neighbor.
‘This is not a dirt bag kind of thing that I’m trying to drag my neighbors through,’ she told the governing board of her town, located 70 miles north of Syracuse.
She said she didn’t like the number of cars parked in front of the home in her neighborhood and wanted to prevent the neighborhood from being overrun.
Mr Hartman, a city employee, also appeared before the council to plead his case.
‘All I’m trying to do is just go out there and have a normal life, a quiet life,’ he pleaded.
He said he was just starting out and needed multiple roommates to help cover expenses.
A former neighbor of Cavallario testified at the town hearing that when Cavallario was a young resident and moved to the wealthy neighborhood near Thompson Blvd., there were residents that complained that she and her husband weren’t rich enough.
‘She considered them ‘servant class,’ Watertown resident Linda Morrison told the council this unnamed resident had said about Cavallario.
Morrison warned it was a slippery slope of neighbors having the right to boot an unwanted resident.
The issue was passed by the city council, 3-2, and was forwarded on to the city’s planning committee.
The Mayor of Watertown, Jeffrey Graham, voted against the measure. He told the MailOnline that it’s a slippery slope when a town rules who can and cannot live together in a home.
‘From a public relations perspective this is seen as a tolerance issue, not a land use issue,’ he said.
Many in the town are complaining about the measure, including young people distraught at the financial cost of housing in a flagging economy.
‘As a young 20-something, I am livid,’ Marissa J.G. Richardson, a resident who will soon graduate from college, wrote to the Watertown Daily Times on February 20 about the measure.
‘If I wanted to live independently, I’d have to get a roommate, no way around it considering how there are very few full-time jobs (with benefits) in town.’
‘It’s very sad how because one woman feels the need to get upset about unmarried people living together.’
Watertown has a population of approximately 30,000 residents and is located near Fort Drum.
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