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Thompson Boulevard zoning change to go before Planning Board


City planners will take another crack at the controversial zoning change pertaining to roommates.

As requested by Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham, the Planning Board will take up changes Tuesday that he proposed regarding the so-called roommate law. Last month, the mayor asked board members to revisit the zoning change following a torrent of criticism from people who believed city leaders were trying to regulate lifestyles and living arrangements.

The issue first came before the Planning Board in January after a homeowner, Deborah A. Cavallario, 259 Thompson Blvd., complained that her neighbor was living with his fiancee and two friends in the neighborhood of single-family houses that is zoned as a Residential A district. Mrs. Cavallario complained about the number of vehicles parked on Travis W. Hartman’s property. Since then, he married his fiancee.

In a 6-1 vote, the board removed language pertaining to roomers. In February, the City Council passed it, with Mayor Graham and Councilwoman Teresa R. Macaluso opposing it.

Supporters defended the change, contending the media blew the issue out of proportion. They also argued they were trying to protect Residential A districts from boarding and rooming houses. But the issue became a public relations problem that brought dozens of people to council meetings and elicited widespread criticism on social media platforms.

To quell the controversy, the mayor last month suggested restoring a sentence council members removed that allowed “no more than four transient roomers” and applied to “accessory uses in residential districts.”

After taking up the matter again during April’s meeting, the Planning Board seemed to be moving toward modifying the law.

“We’re going to look at all the suggestions and make a decision based on the facts, not emotions,” Planning Board member Lawrence J. Coburn said. “We’ll see how it all shakes out.”

The board could vote on the mayor’s ideas on Tuesday. Mr. Graham, Mr. Coburn and Kenneth A. Mix, the city’s planning and community development coordinator, did not want to predict Thursday what might happen.

In addition to putting that language back in the city’s zoning code, Mr. Graham suggested looking at another section pertaining to the definition of family. He has proposed keeping language that would allow “any number of individuals living together as a single housekeeping unit.” But he suggested removing the following language: “to distinguish it from a club, fraternity, or boardinghouse, not more than four members of a family shall be other than blood relatives.”

The Planning Board will meet at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the third-floor council chambers in City Hall, 245 Washington St.

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