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Fri., Oct. 9
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Spicy Iguana Battling With Canton Plaza Owner


CANTON - The work day at Spicy Iguana started off hotter than usual Thursday when employees arrived to find a parked 40-foot-long trailer blocking the restaurant's front entrance.
Parked on wooden blocks, the placement of the metal storage unit angered Susan K. Willson, who co-owns the downtown resturant with her husband, Fernando V. Pantoja.
"There was no warning this was coming," Ms. Willson said. "It's a fire hazard and a safety hazard."
The 8-foot high metal trailer belongs to Sherwin Storage, Malone, and was parked directly in front of the eatery, 21 Miner St., Midtown Plaza
Mr. Pantoja has refused to pay parking lot rental fees to Garry L. Cohen, a New York City developer who owns the entire Midtown Plaza parking lot.
An employee from Sherwin Storage said Mr. Cohen called him to rent the trailer and met him in front of Spicy Iguana at about 7:30 a.m. Thursday when it was delivered.
"He gave me the impression he was going to be remodeling the restaurant and needed this for equipment," the spokesman said, declining to give his full name. "I'm caught in the middle of this. I had no idea this was going on."
Around 1:30 p.m. Thursday, a Sherwin Storage flat bed truck pulled into the parking lot and removed the trailer.
Canton police said the company did not want to be in the middle of this situation, opting to removing the large receptacle.
Mr. Cohen did not return phone calls Thursday.
In 2009, before Spicy Iguana opened, Mr. Cohen had a large mound of snow piled in front of Fashion Craze, a discount clothing store formerly located in the Midtown Plaza.
He argued that the retailer owed him parking fees, but the flap was never resolved and the store later moved to University Shopping Center, Route 11.
According to Ms. Willson, before the restaurant opened in April, Mr. Cohen asked the couple to pay an unreasonably high fee to use the parking lot for their customers.
"He wanted an amazing amount of money," she said. "If he's so enamored with the parking lot, why doesn't he actually move up here and take care of it instead of using fear tactics."
The couple refused and went ahead with opening Spicy Iguana which specializes in Mexican and Latino cuisine.
"We're not going to pay to use the parking lot when the whole town uses the parking lot," Ms. Willson said. "Is he going to charge the Amish people who tie their horses to the poles?"
In the past, Mr. Cohen has said that he receives parking lot rental fees from some of the other tenants in the Midtown Plaza, including Partridge Cafe and Rite Aid. Mr. Cohen owns those buildings, but does not own the Spicy Iguana or the adjacent Aubuchon building, now vacant.
Ms. Willson said the restaurant will remain open as usual, despite the parked trailer.
Canton Village Police Sgt. Basil W. Cheney said police cannot force Mr. Cohen to remove the trailer because it's on his own property.
"It's no different than the snowpile," Sgt. Cheney said. "People have the right to place things on their property as long as they are not violating local codes."
Village Mayor Charlotte C. Ramsay said she has directed Village Attorney Gerald Ducharme to determine whether the village has any recourse in preventing similar situations in the future.
"There are a couple of possibilities. If the trailer is considered a structure it would be subject to site plan review. It could also be considered a public nuisance," Ms. Ramsay said.
Code Enforcement Officer Russell B. Lawrence IV was unavailable for comment Thursday.

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