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Prank calls harassing Thompson Boulevard woman


Pizza Hut manager Everett P. Shelmidine didn’t realize at first that he was caught up in the roommate law controversy when one of his drivers got stuck with a couple of undeliverable pizzas at a Thompson Boulevard address.

It dawned on him later that it was the house of the woman who began the debate pertaining to nonrelatives living together in residential neighborhoods.

“We usually don’t get calls from Thompson Boulevard,” he said, noting a red flag went off after a second prank call occurred.

For the past several weeks, Deborah A. Cavallario has been the victim of harassing phone calls, harsh language on social media and unwanted delivery drivers showing up at her door. Pizzas, Chinese food and service calls for tree service have arrived. A plumber recently came in the middle of the night on an emergency call, police said.

That’s not all. Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said he even heard that a woman from a Syracuse-area escort service came looking for business.

Watertown city police could not verify that incident, saying only that a woman did show up at the 259 Thompson Blvd. home on March 15 and that Mrs. Cavallario called police to file a complaint, according to Detective Sgt. Joseph R. Donoghue.

The pranks and harassment began soon after the Watertown City Council last month approved the zoning change intended to prevent boarding houses in single-family residential districts, which has led to a torrent of criticism from people who think city leaders are trying to regulate lifestyles and living arrangements.

In January, Mrs. Cavallario complained that her neighbor, Travis W. Hartman, 257 Thompson Blvd., was living with his fiancee and two friends in a single-family home in a Residential A district.

But the pranks have gotten so bad that Mrs. Cavallario, who declined to comment, also complained to city police about the Pizza Hut delivery and the arrival of a Big Man’s Cab seeking a fare at her home, Detective Sgt. Donoghue said.

Police, the mayor and Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns are asking that the torment stop. It has been tough not only for Mrs. Cavallario, they said.

“Businesses are getting hurt,” Ms. Burns said. “I feel bad for the people who’ve gotten involved.”

It cost Pizza Hut and the Chinese restaurant for the unsolicited food and the time wasted by other businesses that showed up at her house, she said.

Linda Morrison, who lives across the street at 254 Thompson Blvd., is appalled the situation has gotten so ugly.

“I just can’t believe it’s gone to that extreme,” she said. “Nobody should do that.”

Ms. Morrison, who attended a City Council meeting in February to oppose the zoning change, said some people “have shunned” the restaurant that Mrs. Cavallario’s husband’s family owns because of the controversy.

Instead of harassing her neighbor, Ms. Morrison suggested people who disagree with the zoning change take up the same strategy that Mrs. Cavallario used to get City Council to pass it. They should attend council meetings, circulate a petition against it and lobby council members, she said.

The matter does not appear to have ended. On Monday night, the mayor said he wants both the City Council and the Planning Board to revisit the issue.

Opponents say they believe the zoning change is not enforceable. Supporters say they just want to protect Residential A districts from boarding and rooming houses.

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