Popular Local Farm Operation May Be Forced to Shut Down by Sandy City
Feb 18, 2020 10:44AM
● By Justin Adams
By Justin Adams | [email protected]
A popular local vendor of flowers and vegetables may not open this year after receiving a letter from Sandy City informing them that they must discontinue their business or face “criminal, civil and/or administrative enforcement.”
The vendor, Kuwahara Wholesale, is a small farmers market-type operation located at 8565 S. State Street. The owner, Alex Kuwahara said the property has been in his family for generations, all the way back to his great grandma.
“She owned her greenhouse, she planted and sold flowers her whole life,” he told the Sandy Journal.
Kuwahara takes pride in being a third-generation farmer.
“My dad loved farming,” he said. “I kind of grew the same love for it. I did my best to make him happy. That’s how I grew up. I wanted to succeed, to keep the family name going.”
Now, Kuwahara is afraid he’ll lose both the business and the property after being told by Sandy City that he isn’t allowed to open for business this year.
The city contends that Kuwahara Wholesale has failed to comply with various regulations laid out in city code. A letter sent by the city to the business in October, 2019 cites violations of International Fire Code, Sandy City Municipal Code and failure to obtain a conditional use permit, among other things.
A Facebook post by the city said “Sandy City staff has worked exhaustively with the owners of Kuwahara Nursery over the last five years to help them meet all city and state requirements,” but that “Kuwahara failed to make the improvements to meet those requirements.”
According to Kuwahara, he has made improvements to the property, and could have made even more if it weren’t for all the expensive hoops he has had to jump through as he has worked with the city. He said every time he has applied for the necessary approval, he has been denied because the city either changed or added requirements.
“With how much money they’ve pushed us on all these other regulations, we’re just out of money. We could have had paved parking and curb and gutter in right now, if they would have just approved our plans back then. But they didn’t, they just keep adding things on,” he explained.
Kuwahara estimates that he’s already spent tens of thousands of dollars paying engineering firms to help design required site plans for the city, all of which have been denied.
As for the fire and safety concerns, Kuwahara said the violations laid out in the city’s letter come from an inspection conducted in August of 2019 - the first time the city had ever inspected the property in the nine years he has worked there. Since that inspection, Kuwahara said they’ve taken care of the violations, but the city has refused to return for another inspection since they’re technically closed for the winter.
To put in place everything Sandy City is asking him to do, Kuwahara estimates it will cost him about $1.2 million, money he simply doesn’t have as a small agricultural business, especially if he won’t be allowed to open for business.
“What are we supposed to do now? We have all this debt. We have all these credit cards maxed out. We’re going to lose our property. We’re going to lose everything,” he said.
His last hope, he says, is that the Sandy City Council will intervene and somehow allow him to open this year. The council is set to discuss Kuwahara’s situation during its Feb. 18 meeting, with the item scheduled for about 6 p.m.
Kuwahara is hopeful that some of the Sandy residents who enjoy his business will show up to the meeting and speak in his support. His cause has already garnered the support of over 10,000 people who have signed a petition to keep the business open.
“It really really is awesome, the support that’s there,” Kuwahara said. “It’s helped me to get through this.”