Community Rallies Behind Kuwahara Wholesale At Sandy City Council Meeting
SANDY, Utah – Flanked by dozens of customers, coworkers and supporters from the community, embattled Kuwahara Wholesale made its case for survival before the Sandy City Council after it was ordered to cease operations or face potential legal and civil consequences.
“This is my family’s livelihood,” Alex Kuwahara, owner of Kuwahara Wholesale, told the council Tuesday night. “All I want to do is grow and sell plants and support local farmers by selling local produce.”
Kuwahara’s business, located at 8565 South State Street, has been hoping to open this spring.
However, he admitted during an interview earlier Tuesday that he didn’t know what the future would hold.
“They won’t let me open until the site plan is done, and I’ve turned the site plan in so many times and we turned it in again last September and we thought it was all done again and we pushed so hard,” Kuwahara said. “We maxed out all our credit cards, we used all of our line of credits and did everything to get this done for the city because they told us that’s what they needed and we get it done and they send it back again.”
In October, the letter arrived that said the city intended to pursue “criminal, civil and/or administrative enforcement pursuant to the Sandy City Municipal Code” if the nursery did not discontinue all business. City officials cited numerous fire code, structural and infrastructure violations.
Kuwahara claimed the costs to bring the business up to commercial code stand at over $1 million.
At Tuesday’s meeting, city officials told the council they began working with Kuwahara in 2013 and — while he had on multiple occasions expressed a desire to comply with the code — several requirements had still not been met.
Dozens of attendees from an overflow crowd, however, spoke on behalf of Kuwahara and his business, saying Kuwahara was a “good, honest man” and that his service was something “you just don’t get at the big box stores.”
“It’s so sad that their problem is a code,” one woman said.
Kuwahara, who was teary-eyed at the showing of public support, said he maintained hope his business would be allowed to continue to operate.
“I’ve spent and spent and spent and now, if I can’t open, there’s no chance to pay back that debt,” said Kuwahara, who noted in that case that selling the family’s property was a possibility.
The council heard public comment and feedback from city officials until after 10:00 p.m. Tuesday.
A decision from the city was expected at a later date.
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