After receiving considerable pushback from the community, two controversial projects that would see a solar farm and a cell tower erected on the same parcel in Mount Kisco will have their environmental impact reviews conducted in tandem.
With two applications before the Mount Kisco Planning Board stirring outrage among residents who live near the proposed 25-acre construction site at 180 S. Bedford Road, officials agreed both projects should undergo an Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) simultaneously, explaining it would aid in removing any doubt about the projects.
“We have decided that we will perform a simultaneous SEQRA review so we remove any doubts or any claims by any person going forward that the review was conducted in a manner that would give rise to any impermissible segmentation on SEQRA,” Planning Board Vice Chairman John Bainlardi said at the Sept. 22 meeting. “The applications themselves are independent of one another but from a SEQRA environmental review standpoint they will be reviewed in tandem.”
Currently, Sunrise Community Solar of Briarcliff Manor is looking to install a 2.5 million-kilowatt ground-mounted solar array on about 5.7 acres of the 25-acre property near Sarles Street at the Mount Kisco-Bedford border. The array would generate enough power for about 350 private homes, according to the applicant.
Homeland Towers and Verizon Wireless have also submitted an application to erect a 145-foot monopole on the same piece of land. Representatives from the project say the pole would bring better wireless service to the area and are seeking a special use permit, a steep slopes permit and site plan approval.
Verizon has an existing tower at 304 Lexington Ave., but that site, as well as other locations in the overlay district, will not sole the gaps in service elsewhere in the village, representatives from the project contend.
Despite the decision by planners, a public hearing resulted in residents continuing to object both projects for more than two hours, stressing that the proposed area is the wrong place to build on and will have an adverse impact on the environment and community. Speakers also opposed to more than 700 trees that would be removed if the solar farm is approved.
Sarles Street resident Rex Pietrobono said the project should be denied, maintaining officials should find an unused parking lot or vacant commercial parcel to build the solar farm on. He added that it’s not appropriate to remove a significant amount of trees to replace it with solar power.
“Why not exchange green energy for brown energy? You could save all the trees and the owner can still use the property,” Pietrobono said. “This is a beautiful parcel and you’re going to destroy it.”
Resident Ann Hall added the cell tower would be invasive, and combined with the solar farm, would result in property values decreasing. Nobody will buy a house bordering a cell tower and a solar farm, she said.
John Rhodes, chairman of the Mount Kisco Conservation Advisory Council, agreed a positive declaration is needed with both proposals threatening the character of the community and hundreds of trees. Visual and noise concerns also impact the neighborhood and Marsh Sanctuary, he said.
“This (land) is extremely important to be maintained,” resident John Stockbridge said. “A positive declaration is so necessary.”
Bainlardi said that while the current zoning allows for a solar farm to be built, a principal permitted use for the land is single-family homes. While an application proposing that isn’t before the town, he explained the property owner would have the right to build as many as 16 homes. Bainlardi said such an application would be permissible and likely result in the removal in as many, if not more, trees than the solar project is suggesting.
Residents further challenged that the solar farm application is a conflict of interest that requires an independent review, making accusations about the boards’ professionalism. Planning Board Chairman Douglas Hertz, who has recused himself from discussions, is the president of Solar Community Solar.
Additionally, Bainlardi was the former property owner who sold the parcel to its current owner, Skull Island Partners.
Bainlardi rebutted claims he should recuse himself, stating that the planning board is made up of individuals who take their jobs seriously and don’t favor applications over others. He said the board deserves respect and advised residents to avoid making character assassinations.
“We’re all members of the same community, we’re all trying to do our best to fully do our jobs,” Bainlardi said. “And we do take it seriously and we spend a lot of time and effort, and we do so because we care about our community and we care about our neighbors.”
The public hearing will remain open until the next meeting on Oct. 27.