The Mount Kisco Village Board ended any consideration of using a portion of Leonard Park as a site for a relocated cell tower, concluding a contentious debate as some residents argued it would denigrate the park.
Nearly a year to the day after it formally opened exploration of finding an alternate site for Homeland Towers’ 140-foot monopole at 180 S. Bedford Rd., the board voted unanimously Monday evening to abort the process after it was unable to reach consensus.
Mayor Gina Picinich said there were too many issues that the board was unable to agree on to continue devoting resources to the matter.
“After a year’s time, an extraordinary number of hours, effort and energy, there are still outstanding issues that have not been resolved to all board members’ satisfaction,” Picinich said. “As a result, we have been unable to reach consensus on a variety of points, including the space to be dedicated as parkland to replace the alienated land.”
The village would have had to continue through an extended process that would have required state legislation to alienate parkland, replace it with at least comparable land, agree on a lease with Homeland Towers and decide exactly where to place the tower.
It was believed that officials had been eyeing a remote portion of the park in the vicinity of the sixth and seventh holes of a disc golf course as the site for the tower.
Since early last year, a group of residents strenuously fought to prevent the village from using any portion of Leonard Park for the tower. They pointed to a deed restriction dating back to 1941 involving the Leonard family, which donated 95 acres of the 116-acre park, that prohibited commercial enterprises at the site. The remaining acreage was donated by the Wallace family, founders of Reader’s Digest.
Some of the opponents attended Monday’s board meeting, with a few commending the board while others were less complimentary, saying that the park should have never been considered.
Robert D’Agostino thanked officials for listening to opponents’ pleas and for remembering that Leonard Park is a special place for village residents.
“You have done a great thing here tonight,” D’Agostino said. “Millions of children and people over a 20-, 30-year timespan will enjoy the beauty of that park and will continue on for generations. Your children, our children, our grandchildren.”
Resident Theresa Flora, although pleased with the result, said the process unnecessarily pitted community members against one another.
“I’m really grateful that I had the opportunity to defend something that is a gem to all of us – past, present, future – and it was the side of right,” Flora said.
Board members explained they were doing their due diligence by keeping open as many choices as possible to provide the necessary infrastructure for adequate cell service throughout the village. Another set of opponents also have taken issue with the application for the 25 acres at 180 S. Bedford Rd., which is in close proximity to two residences and Marsh Sanctuary.
Deputy Mayor Lisa Abzun said the board was doing its job in exploring whether Leonard Park would work.
“This was an investigation of whether it was a good idea, and if it was a good idea, whether it could be done,” she said.
Trustee Karine Patino said the process was never about who loves Leonard Park more but for the board to make the best decision for the village.
“It was our responsibility for you all to understand every factor involved,” Patino said. “To preserve our options, we needed to consider all physically appropriate sites, one of which was our park, our beloved park.
Another board member, Trustee Karen Schleimer, said there were no regrets examining Leonard Park because the discussion on the need for a tower, including its size and design, brought a critical issue to the forefront that some residents may have previously been unaware of. It was also necessary, Schleimer contended, because the investigation of alternate sites before the Planning Board was “insufficient.”
“By allowing the discussions to take place concerning the possibility of placing the cell tower in Leonard Park, it accomplished two additional things: it opened a dialogue between members of the Village Board and members of the cell tower company and their representatives, which otherwise might not have been possible, and, second, it changed the negotiating position of the village with the owner of 180 S. Bedford Rd. with respect to an outright sale to the village or eminent domain,” Schleimer said.
Picinich said the eminent domain process or to to potentially purchase 180 S. Bedford Rd. as open space will continue whether or not the tower or a solar farm, which has also been proposed for the site by another applicant, is approved.
Homeland Towers’ application has recently resurfaced before the Planning Board and is in the midst of a public hearing that will help determine whether there should be a positive or negative declaration under the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). The hearing is set to resume on Tuesday.
Critical of the board’s action over the past year was Democratic nominee for mayor Thomas Luzio. Abzun is challenging Luzio in a primary in June.
Luzio argued that the board wasted taxpayer time and money on an option that should have never been considered. He also said that it was highly suspicious that about a week after he received the nomination for mayor, Picinich, who is supporting Abzun, would suddenly look to resolve the matter.
“I commend our residents who battled the board on this issue,” Luzio said. “It is unfortunate that it took my entry into the mayoral race and my stance on the cell tower for the mayor and deputy mayor to suddenly have an epiphany and renounce their now-untenable position – a mere six days after I announced my candidacy and my intention to preserve and protect Leonard Park.”
Both Abzun and Picinich dismissed Luzio’s assessment.
“I think he has a grossly inflated opinion of himself and it’s kind of amusing to me,” Abzun said. “But it’s also a tale of caution. I think Mr. Luzio doesn’t have a grasp whatsoever on the process that we undertook a year ago.”
Picinch called Luzio’s comment “laughable. He mistakenly believes that local government functions because of him, she said.
“It’s important to make himself relevant,” Picinich said. “So I guess the way that he does that is trying to stir more controversy.”
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/