By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO March 7, 2006 The Yukiguni Maitake Manufacturing Corporation of America received a major victory in New York State Supreme Court last week when Judge Robert Sackett upheld the decision of the Town of Mamakating Planning Board to approve the proposed maitake mushroom factorys environmental impact statement.
The Basha Kill Area Association and Kevin and Patricia Moore (whose property borders the proposed factory) brought a lawsuit against the board and the company and will appeal. The petitioners claimed the board did not take an adequately hard look at the environmental issues concerning the plant and its impact on the Basha Kills ecosystem.
But Sackett felt the board and the company followed the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act appropriately.
The court finds that the Planning Board determination was lawful, not arbitrary, capricious nor an abuse of discretion, and was amply supported by substantial evidence in the record. Moreover, the court concludes that the Planning Boards determination was made after a long and hard look at the proposed project and its impact on the environment and community as required by Environmental Conservation Law, wrote Sackett in his decision.
YMMCA President and CEO Kazunori Kameyama was expectedly jubilant about the decision.
Yukiguni executed the SEQRA process just as the textbook required. We did everything honestly. The planning board diligently followed the textbook. We believe we did nothing illegal. I have been confident that this decision [would be reached], he said.
Next up for Yukiguni will be its application for a special use permit to build its factory on McDonald Road in Wurtsboro. The company will have to answer questions by the towns engineering company before a public hearing can be scheduled on the application.
The town planning board was represented in the case by Ira Cohen in September before he took office as Sullivan County Treasurer. Yesterday, Cohen expressed his satisfaction with the decision as well.
Cohen prepared the SEQRA documents and process for the planning board after being hired two years ago by the town. He instructed the board to require the applicant to submit an environmental impact statement before it could apply to the Zoning Board of Appeals for code variances, including the 35-foot height variance.
At the time, the company had already appeared in front of the ZBA, and a public hearing was held. Cohen said that didnt go over well with the applicant but was the proper procedure.
After the planning board completed its review of the environmental impact statement, Cohen prepared the findings statement. The approval laid out several conditions, including restrictions on odor and requirements that the well of the Moores not be impacted.
In addition, Cohen recommended that the ZBA not approve the height variance. That apparently led to his dismissal by former ZBA Chairman Jim Barnett. Cohen said the company did not justify the need for the additional 35 feet.
Cohen is not sure as to whether or not he will be involved in the appeal by the BKAA, saying it was up to the town board. The town hired Langdon Chapman as the new attorney for the planning board.
Paula Medley, president of the BKAA, said her organization was not surprised in the decision because most environmental lawsuits lose at the county supreme court level. But we are happy that the court upheld our legal standing [in order to bring the case and appeal].
Their right to bring the lawsuit was challenged by YMMCA attorney Charles Bazydlow, but the group will be submitting an appeal to the Third Department Appellate Division.