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AN ARCHITECTURAL ELEVATION of the proposed Yukigui Maitake mushroom plant in the Town of Mamakating.

Yukiguni Maitake plans to pay fees

By Dan Hust
WURTSBORO — April 1, 2008 — The Town of Mamakating says the Yukiguni Maitake Manufacturing Corporation of America owes the town money – upwards of $80,000.
Yukiguni says it had an understanding with the township that those fees wouldn’t be paid until a building permit was issued for its proposed mushroom processing plant north of Wurtsboro.
Yet once again, the company appears poised to avoid another potential derailment of its five-year-old project.
“I’m going to pay [the fees] immediately,” promised Yukiguni CEO Kaz Kameyama yesterday, prior to having received a bill that will likely total around $82,500 (town officials will not release the exact figure until Yukiguni has the bill in hand).
Though he’s not going to, Kameyama could fight it. As both sides indicate, Yukiguni is not at fault for failing to pay thousands of dollars in site plan and special permit use review fees – they were never asked to ante up by the township.
“I was never billed,” said Kameyama, though he acknowledged he was aware of the need to pay fees (and had signed a letter confirming this awareness).
In 2003, he said, Yukiguni paid the town planning board $200 with the agreement that, since the factory would be built in phases, the required 10 cents-per-buildable-square-footage fee would be settled once a building permit was issued.
As the years passed and the project slogged through lawsuits and red tape, “there was no argument about those unpaid fees,” recalled Kameyama, though he added, “I have never forgotten this future liability.”
Planning Board Chair John Piazza could not be reached for comment, but Mamakating Supervisor Bob Fiore, who was on the planning board when these fees were incurred, doesn’t recall how Yukiguni got permission to delay what the town code says should be an upfront payment.
Residents who closely follow Yukiguni’s progress brought the matter to Fiore’s attention last month, just before Yukiguni was scheduled to make a presentation to the planning board about a scaled-down version of the project.
Fiore, who voted against Yukiguni’s plans when he was on the planning board, told Kameyama that Yukiguni could not be on the planning board’s agenda until the fees in question were paid.
Though Kameyama was clear to state that the decision to strike Yukiguni from the March 25 planning board agenda was Fiore’s and not Piazza’s, neither men had any noticeable animosity toward each other when they discussed the issue this past week.
“Our government is transparent and is always going to go by the rules,” said Fiore, who was elected supervisor in November.
“There was no anger,” he added of his conversation with Kameyama informing him of the situation. “They said, ‘Send the bill.’”
And Kameyama said Yukiguni plans to pay it right away so as to present the revised project to the planning board at its April 8 meeting (7 p.m. at the town hall in Wurtsboro).
He hopes to get the necessary permits from the town and state fairly quickly thereafter – though there is some question as to whether or not a significantly revised plan might restart much of the permitting and review process.
That decision will be up to the planning board.
“I have not given it up to be able to start construction later this year,” Kameyama said.
As for Fiore, “if the project is done properly, all the rules are followed . . . then I wish them well.
“I would have to say that my own personal opinion doesn’t matter,” he concluded.
Big Plans . . . Made Smaller
Though an environmental assessment, site plan/special permit approvals and variances are already in place, Yukiguni has revised its plan to erect a facility to process maitake mushrooms for distribution in the American market.
Part of the change stems from advances in technology that will allow the plant to use less water. Though it’s permitted to withdraw up to 489,000 gallons per day from the aquifer underneath the Bashakill Valley, Kameyama said the factory will only reach a maximum of 95,000 gallons per day by utilizing a “quasi-geothermal water recycling method.”
Since such technology is costlier, the factory itself will be downsized from 80 feet high to 64 feet high, making it a foot lower than the nearby Kohl’s Distribution Center on Route 209.
The resulting 10,000-square-foot reduction will also accompany a reduction in employees – from 210 to an anticipated 120.
“However, the new recycling business of the after-harvest sawdust [used to grow mushrooms] that we are in the serious due diligence stage with several local businesspeople,” said Kameyama, “could create a good number of derivative job positions in the local community if a few of those ideas are materialized. I am cautiously optimistic that the total new job number will not be far below from the original projection.”
Kameyama also admitted that Yukiguni is considering bumping up the sales price of processed mushrooms to offset higher production costs.
But in the end, whether any of this happens will be up to the Mamakating Planning Board.

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