News Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.
Homeland Towers Looks to Ditch Leonard Park for Cell Tower Site
Nearly a year after last appearing before the Mount Kisco Planning Board, review of Homeland Towers’ controversial cell tower proposal on a 25-acre parcel resumed last week with the applicant no longer considering Leonard Park.
Attorney Robert Gaudioso, who represents the applicant, informed officials last week his client is once again pursuing the siting of a 145-foot monopole on a portion of the land at 180 S. Bedford Rd. He said multiple modifications to a potential lease to relocate the tower to Leonard Park stalled without the Village Board making a decision.
“We’ve made multiple revisions to the lease and requests to the Village Board, but unfortunately they have not moved forward with that site,” Gaudioso said last Tuesday during the resumption of the public hearing for the first time since January. “So we are back to this property.”
The Planning Board is responsible for granting site plan approval and a special permit to Homeland for the South Bedford Board site while the Zoning Board of Appeals will determine whether a variance to reduce setbacks should be issued.
Last week’s hearing featured the applicant and the village’s consultants discussing how best to mitigate the tower’s impacts on the community along with other areas of concern as several public speakers urged the board to fight Homeland Towers on the application.
Rex Pietrobono, a Sarles Street resident who would live closest to the tower at South Bedford Road, urged the board not to cave into Homeland’s pressure to get the application approved.
“I have to say, and I surmise, that it’s less mitigation, it’s more the terms of your surrender, okay,” Pietrobono said. “This is to absolve your conscience if you make a decision to approve this application. The weakest point of the village’s position is going to be resolved, and if you don’t have it, then you quit. I’m asking you not to quit.”
Complicating the matter is that federal telecommunications law stipulates a 150-day time limit for a municipality to decide on an application if the need for cell coverage is demonstrated. The deadline had been suspended for the past year while Homeland Towers searched for a possible alternate location and was in negotiation with the village regarding possible relocation to Leonard Park.
The deadline has been extended on numerous occasions for close to two years. Village Attorney Whitney Singleton said the current deadline is Jan. 27.
Last week, Conservation Advisory Council Chair John Rhodes called on the board to issue a positive declaration under the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), which would require a lengthy evaluation. He pointed to the board’s decision to issue a positive declaration for a solar farm, proposed for another portion of the same parcel, as justification for why it should do the same for Homeland Towers.
The board also had determined in September 2020 that environmental impacts should be weighed for both projects in tandem.
However, Singleton said federal law supersedes state law and there isn’t time to undertake what would be at least a year-long SEQRA process considering the deadline, which has been referred to as a shot clock. If the Planning Board initiated the extended environmental review, the village could be sued.
“We are not in a position to initiate a 12- or 18-month process and stay within the shot clock period,” Singleton told the board. “It’s plain and simple.”
Gaudioso said the back-and-forth discussions with officials that failed to produce a decision by the Village Board regarding the Leonard Park site was the key reason his client returned to move forward with the original application for South Bedford Road. Relocation to the park has generated stiff opposition from some residents.
“I recently asked the Village Board to put it on their agenda and take a vote, thumbs up or thumbs down,” Gaudioso said. “We don’t care what site it is. We just need a site and the reason why we need a site, our clients, both Verizon and AT&T, have joined this application, have shown the need for the site.”
Singleton clarified Gaudioso’s comment by stating that the Village Board has been addressing the issue in a timely fashion, having held meetings and presentations and engaging with Homeland on the various drafts of a possible agreement at the park. The process, which can be lengthy, would also require receiving state approval for parkland alienation.
In addition, the Village Board had authorized through a vote to pursue eminent domain proceedings for 180 S. Bedford Rd. Obtaining that land would count as parkland replacement if Leonard Park would host the cell tower.
Mayor Gina Picinich did not comment directly on Homeland Towers’ return to the Planning Board but said that the Village Board is looking at every avenue, including eminent domain at South Bedford Road and Leonard Park for the tower.
“We continue to pursue all options,” Picinich said. “We’re continuing our due diligence, discussions continue, all options are on the table.”
Chairman Resigns Planning Board
At the start of the Dec. 13 meeting, Chairman Michael Bonforte announced his resignation from the Planning Board effective immediately because of work obligations.
“I am just too busy, and it sounds selfish, but I have to make that move and there’s no better time than now as I walk in this evening,” he said. “I think I’ve seen a lot through.”
Bonforte had taken over after the last two chairs, Doug Hertz and John Bainlardi, left the board.
William Polese is serving as acting chair and took over that role last Tuesday.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/