By Nathan Mayberg
WURTSBORO August 9, 2005 A whirlwind of action is raging as the proposed mushroom factory in the Town of Mamakating awaits a crucial decision from the towns Zoning Board of Appeals.
The company is not on the agenda for this week. The board will meet once again next month, but there has been no date set yet on when they will discuss the variance requests by the company one of the largest obstacles in the way of the huge project.
Yukiguni Maitake Manufacturing Corporation of America (YMMCA) requires a height variance, lot coverage variance and loading dock variance for their 80-foot-high main plant and several smaller buildings located on over 47 acres of land off of State Route 209 and McDonald Road.
The plant would draw up to 425,000 gallons of water a day from the local aquifer and release up to 256,000 gallons of water a day into the atmosphere.
The Basha Kill Area Association, along with property neighbors Kevin and Patricia Moore, have filed suit against the Town of Mamakating Planning Board over its review of the project.
YMMCA is also named in the lawsuit for allegedly minimizing and denying the environmental impact of the plant. The town has not yet responded.
The company recently began a campaign to garner support for their plans by taking out advertisements in an out-of-county newspaper and through mailings to town residents.
That drive, and its coordination with the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development, has angered many of the towns vocal opponents of the project.
The advertisement claims that the project will have no significant impacts on the environment, traffic or schools.
At a recent meeting of the Planning and Community Development Committee of the Sullivan County Legislature, opponents expressed their frustration with the Partnership for continuing to push for a project that many in the town have vigilantly opposed.
At public hearings by the town over the project, past chairmen of the Partnerships board and its current and former president have been amongst the few people to voice support for the project, while dozens of town residents harshly objected.
The lawsuit against the planning board, which was filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Sullivan, seeks to annul the town planning boards State Environmental Quality Review Act findings statement, which determined the companys environmental impact statement to be complete.
Alex Smith, a lawyer in Middletown, is representing the petitioners.
In the preliminary statement of the 80-page lawsuit, he wrote that the Planning Board failed to honor its obligations under SEQRA to take a hard look at the serious threats posed by the mushroom plant to two unique and fragile ecosystems: the Basher Kill creek and Basha Kill Wetlands and Wildlife Management Area, and the Shawangunk Ridge.
In particular, the suit attacked the board for allegedly disregarding the plants incredibly consumptive water needs and to the threat posed to the magnificent viewshed of the Shawangunk Ridge by the plants enormous bulk and height.
YMMCA CEO/President Kazunori Kameyama responded recently to the controversy surrounding his project by stating that his company had followed all of the legal requirements by filing an environmental impact statement deemed complete by the planning board, and had answered many questions asked of them by local residents and board members alike.
He said the impact his plant would have on the local aquifer, by drawing up to 425,000 gallons a day from it, would be negligible.
He said that 425,000 gallons of water would only be drawn on the hottest days.
He expects the average number to be closer to 300,000. The water is used to cool the processing plant.
Every day, the water is flowing to the aquifer. There will be no impact, he explained.
He said the wells of local homeowners will not be affected either.
The project is located within the Empire Zone and thus will be eligible for state tax breaks, provided they meet employment requirements.
The company previously had an agreement with the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency to take title to the property, but that has since expired.
Kameyama said the company may resume its cooperation with the IDA for tax breaks in the future. IDA CEO Allan Scott has spoken in favor of the project at public hearings.
The company plans to create over 200 positions with health and retirement benefits. Opponents have argued that they will mostly be low-paying.
Kameyama said that their pay would be competitive with other local businesses.
He said the corporation has reached a preliminary agreement with the Hudson Valley Building and Trades Council to provide the labor for the construction of the facilities.
Kameyama said he has not spoken to the ZBA since they sent him back to the planning board last year.
ZBA members have not revealed their current stance on the project, although some of them have been supportive in the past.
BKAA President Paula Medley said the company should have been required to hire an independent engineer to conduct water pump tests, studies on the possibility of increased fogging, and an economic impact analysis.
Instead, she said, the company spent money on advertising and a flier campaign, which she believes will have little impact on the opinions of residents this late in the game.