Dec. 6, 2002 – Eight frustrated Smith Bay area residents took their anger to the street Friday morning, protesting the construction of a Merchant's Market food warehouse in what they termed their "backyards."
Led by Horace Lewis, they held signs, one saying "We are hurting only 11 feet from our home."
More than two years ago, a zoning variance sponsored by Sen. Roosevelt David was approved by the 23rd Legislature, paving the way for the construction of the warehouse.
"I don't think they gave the people in the community a chance to give an input in their underhanded decision," Leola Hermon, one of the demonstrators, said. "I hope that they put a stop to the construction, and we'd continue to live peaceably, as we used to." Hermon said she hopes the government learns that there are laws to live by.
When Lewis and other area residents filed a lawsuit against the Legislature last year for granting the variance, they were told that the Legislature has absolute immunity. The group appealed that ruling, and earlier this year its appeal was also denied.
Lewis said Friday that the warehouse is being constructed illegally because it will occupy 90 percent of the lot, which was rezoned R-3. Under that zoning, he said, structures should occupy "not more than a total of 30 percent of the area."
"It should be stopped," he said. "They're building this building right up in the people's houses. This will devalue the people's property, and it will block out air and light."
Luis Elias, general manager of Merchant's Market could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Lewis also said the building would be more appropriate for a "recreational complex for the children in the community."
Monroe Green, who lives 40 feet to the west of the Merchant's Market site, said he decided to demonstrate "to see if there's anything anyone can do with the problem they're creating," referring to the warehouse.
"It's disgusting," Green said, adding that he doesn't understand why the Planning and Natural Resources Department "allowed them to build in a residential area."
Paul Charles, another Smith Bay resident, said the warehouse is "right under my pillow."
"It's an inconvenience to us," Charles said, adding that he hopes that the government will put a stop to the construction.
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