By Nathan Mayberg
WURTSBORO January 28, 2005 The Yukiguni Maitake Manufacturing Corporation of Americas plans for a 925,000-square-foot, 83-foot-high mushroom factory on 47 acres of land on the corner of Route 209 and McDonald Road in Wurtsboro will continue to sit in limbo until this Tuesday, when the Town of Mamakating Planning Board is scheduled to discuss the companys final environmental impact statement and whether or not to accept it as complete.
The board met with company officials this past Tuesday evening, along with the towns planner former county Planning Commissioner Alan Sorensen town engineer David Higgins and town attorney Ira Cohen.
The board had a number of questions about the plant. Some members reserved their questions for next week, as they had just received new information from the company. Cohen stated that the meeting was only a worksession and didnt require public comment.
At the outset, the entire board, along with its engineer and attorney, went behind closed doors for a lengthy amount of time before the worksession started. Cohen and Planning Board Chair John Piazza said they were not in an executive session, and one board member said that Cohen had discussed procedure with them.
Later that evening, Yukiguni President and CEO Kazunori Kameyama pledged that the plant would now limit its maximum usage of water to 366,000 gallons a day (down from previous statements of between 420,000 and 621,000 gallons a day).
According to Cohen, if the board should determine the statement complete, there would then be a 30-day period for finding statements to be made by the board. The Zoning Board of Appeals would then review the project for its requested variances, which include a height variance of 35 feet higher than what current zoning law allows, a 10 percent increase in lot coverage, and a 14-loading dock reduction.
ZBA Chairman Jim Barnett has previously expressed support for the project.
The issue, however, has set off a storm of protest from dozens in the community. Many homes throughout the town now have signs on their property in opposition to the plant. The Bashakill Area Association, a local organization of approximately 500 Mamakating residents, has been the leading voice against the plant. Public hearings on the matter have been tense, with packed town halls.
During Tuesdays meeting, Kameyama was allowed an opportunity to make a statement in which he downplayed public concerns over the effects his plant would have on the local water supply, fogging and its visual impacts.
Kameyama said he understood why people had concerns regarding those issues but believed his company could co-exist with the community.
Richard Calogero, an engineer with the Chazen Company (hired by Yukiguni), said a maximum of 308,000 gallons of water would evaporate into the air a day (14,000 gallons per hour).
He rebuffed concerns about the buildings height by stating that nearby Kohls Warehouse stands about the same height above sea level as his building would, because Kohls is at a higher elevation. Summitville resident Eileen Weil later took issue with that statement because she said most of Kohls is approximately 30 feet high. Only one section stands about 45 feet, she said.
In addition, Calogero said the location of the plant is not a pristine wilderness area. Many town residents have spoken to the contrary, noting its proximity to the historic Delaware and Hudson Canal path, wetlands, wooded areas, the Shawangunk Ridge and wildlife.
Planning Board Chairman Piazza questioned company officials as to how their water usage could be verified, since they had once again dropped their stated maximum usage. Attorney Charles Bazydlow answered that they would submit to water meter readings.
Bazydlow further stated that his company should not be expected to mitigate any potential traffic impacts, because he said they would be minimal.
Board member Robert Louis-Jacques expressed concerns about the water which would be used and would evaporate into the air. He will be submitting his questions and comments this Tuesday, he said.
Edna Fedun, appointed last year to the board, said all of her questions about the water were answered, and she saw no issue in regards to the height of the building.
Board member Jim Stout said he wanted to see the companys new proposal for water usage in writing. He further pondered how the company arrived at their water usage figure. He said the town would find itself in a difficult position if the company ran over its stated usage.
Board members John Malmgreen and Gary Tetz had questions about the companys recharge plans. Malmgreen asked whether one will be submitted. Bazydlow said the company would need to develop a conservation plan for the Delaware River Basin Commission but has no current plans to do so. (The watershed in the area feeds into the Delaware at Port Jervis.)
Malmgreen was worried about the odor emanating from the heavy amounts of sawdust used in the mushroom-growing process. A number of town residents have expressed similar concerns during previous public hearings.
Calogero said the sawdust would not remain outside long enough to decompose and cause an odor problem.
Malmgreen further stated that there was nothing in a written statement about what the company would do to mitigate the impact to the roads. He noted that two tractor-trailers could not pass each other near the plant, under the current proposal.
Cohen wanted to know what kind of conservation plan the company would produce. The company said they would cut back production of their mushrooms, and hence their water usage, if there was a drought.
Town engineer David Higgins said he still had a number of questions which he would bring up next week. In particular, he said the company must respond to the traffic issues. He also said he wanted a letter from the utility company Yukiguni has referenced in prior statements regarding their service.
Sorensen said he would need time to review the latest documents as well, but he believed the company could do more to mitigate the visual impacts by leaving more vegetation in its current state on the site.
At this point, Cohen said the plant could be given a conditional special use permit. He said some of the issues raised could be handled in the future, when the plant is already in operation. He said a special use permit should address the consequences for violations.
Afterwards, Weil denounced the company for failing to submit an official drawing of the building, as has been requested by the planning boards own engineers as well as the local fire department. Bazydlow released to the board an unofficial copy of what the building would look like but would not give it to the public or allow for pictures. He said there would be changes made.
Another opponent of the plant, Richard Morris, pointed out that the company has failed to detail how the water will be used.
Nobody has ever seen any schematics, he said.
Weil asked that if the plant was once again reducing its stated water usage, would that, in turn, mean they would be using more electricity?
In another matter, Piazza announced that the board will be meeting the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, which will relieve many town residents who were upset that the board was meeting on the same days as the town board (which meets the first and third Tuesdays of each month).