Residents voice concerns about duplexes in Watertown’s zoning changes

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Thompson Boulevard resident Deborah A. Cavallario doesn’t want the city’s new zoning laws to allow duplexes in her neighborhood.

On Thursday afternoon, she tried to convince the Watertown Planning Board to eliminate that provision in the city’s zoning rewrite.

“This is where we made our home,” she said. “This is where we raised our kids. We’ve spent a lot of money on our home. We don’t want that destroyed in any way or shape or form.”

She was among six city residents who spoke at the planning board meeting in opposition of allowing duplexes and two-family dwellings in what is now zoned Residential A.

The city is combining Residential A, B and C zones into one district that would allow one- and two-family homes throughout the city.

In his 60 years of living in Watertown, Bruce R. Irwin has seen homes in neighborhoods throughout the city become run down. He doesn’t want to see the zoning change cause more homes to do that, he said.

“There’s not a lot of nice single-family homes,” he said. “I really think we need to consider it more.”

Thursday’s special meeting was held so board members and the public could share their impressions of the city’s first zoning rewrite since 1959.

After asking questions about such changes in maximum vs. minimum parking, bank drive-up windows and manufactured homes, the planning board opened up the discussion for the public.

For the next hour, they mostly heard about residents’ concerns about the duplex provision.

“I’m not sure we’re very interested in that possibility,” said Thompson Boulevard resident Bill Kimball.

Echoing the concerns about duplexes, former City Councilman Leonard G. Spaziani also wasn’t keen on the idea about plans to cut down the size of parking lots in the city.

“I’m a crotchety old man who likes to drive his old pickup truck,” he said, urging the planning board to slow down approving the new zoning laws.

“Too fast, too soon,” he said.

Ten years ago, Mrs. Cavallario headed opposition of allowing homeowners to rent their homes to boarders. The so-called roommate law caused an uproar.

In explaining her views on Thursday, she said she wants to preserve neighborhoods.

But planning board members and city planning staff said they consider the changes as looking to the city’s future.

Michael A. Lumbis, the city’s planning and community development director, said he assumed the opposition was prompted by concerns that single-family homes would become rental properties.

He also said the city has been working on the city’s blueprint for the future for two years, holding open houses to explain the plan to the public, discussing it with City Council and publicizing it in local media.

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