Posted: Jun 16, 2016 4:59 PM EDTUpdated: Jun 16, 2016 6:52 PM EDT
By Sophie Nielsen-Kolding, Collier County reporter
The city of Naples hasn't approved a new gas station in years, and when it did, the station was put in the city's poorest neighborhood, according to a newly filed lawsuit against the city.
According to the lawsuit, 22 River Park residents claim their civil rights were violated by the city council's approval of an eight-pump 7-Eleven gas station.
USING OUR APP? WATCH VIDEO HERE.
Residents say the only entrance to the proposed 7-Eleven station will clog up the only entrance and exit to their community -- which could prompt safety issues.
"We feel like (City Council members) just ignore us," said Curtis Williams, one of the residents who brought the suit. "We asked some of the councilmen, 'Would you want this in your neighborhood?"
Williams said the neighborhood has been against the project from the very beginning, but city council approved it in a 4-3 vote.
Williams and his neighbors went to attorney Mimi Wolok, who said the council put a polluting business in a low income/minority neighborhood -- which she claimed was a civil rights violation.
"Although all of the residents in this community with only one way in and out are going to be affected as far as their safety, only a fraction of residents received actual notice," Wolok said.
A city rule says only homeowners within 500 feet have to be notified.
Residents are afraid about both an uptick in cars and trucks driving over a sidewalk that neighborhood kids use to walk to school, as well as the logjam it could create in a hurricane.
"We have one way into and out of this community, at the same time people form elsewhere in the community are going to be gassing up right there, potentially blocking the evacuation from that neighborhood," Wolok said.
Controversies have surrounded the neighborhood before. The city waited nearly a decade to ask for resident input on the spending of grant funds, and later residents believed they were being spied on with cameras used by the police department.
Several city officials, including the mayor, council members, the city manager and the city attorney, said they could not comment on a pending lawsuit, but will have to file response in court.
"I don't care too much for the mayor. That's the bottom line," Williams said. "He sold the people out.
Williams said he thinks the city believes it would benefit if current residents moved out of River Park.
"That's what I think their whole motive is, just drive the price, they purchase, get everyone out, come through and redevelop," he said. "That's the plan. That's the master plan."