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Marsh Sanctuary, Homeowners File Suit Against Mt. Kisco Over Solar Law

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Marsh Sanctuary and several homeowners near a 25-acre parcel in Mount Kisco filed a lawsuit against the village earlier this month charging the municipality with spot zoning in order to site a large ground-mounted solar array.

In addition to Marsh Sanctuary, four individuals or couples who are nearby homeowners as well as the Mount Kisco Chase Homeowner Association, which oversees the 86 single-family home development near the site in question, 180 S. Bedford Rd., are charging that the village permitted solar panels in a low-density residential area that is adjacent to a nature preserve. The plaintiffs also contend the village provided insufficient public notice.

Mount Kisco approved its Solar Law in November 2018 that permits a “Tier 3” solar array on a property of at least 25 acres in the Conservation District. The suit was filed in state Supreme Court in White Plains on June 10.

The village defines a Tier 3 array as ground-mounted panels that are more than 10,000 square feet. Tier 1 are rooftop units and Tier 2 is a ground-mounted array of less than 1,000 square feet.

“This use, however, is illegal since a municipality may not use its police power to spot zone a particular parcel of land for special treatment that is contrary to the Town’s Comprehensive Plan and which serves to benefit only the owner and lessee of the spot zoned parcel at the expense of the surrounding community,” the litigation states of the Solar Law.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to annul the law because they argue in the litigation that it is spot zoning, which benefits one individual.

Fueling the controversy, the suit alleges that the rezoning was encouraged to benefit the Planning Board’s chairman at the time, Douglas Hertz. Hertz is the principal for Sunrise Solar Solutions in Briarcliff Manor, which would be supplying the site with the solar array if the project were to be approved through a lease from property owner Skull Island Partners.

Furthermore, a former vice chairman of the village’s Planning Board, John Bainlardi, sold the property to Skull Island in 2013.

The litigation states that about a month before Mount Kisco approved its Solar Law, that a request was made to allow for a Tier 3 array at the site, opening the possibility of a field of solar panels at what the suit argues is an environmentally sensitive area.

“The inclusion of Tier 3 uses in only one Conservation District was highly controversial,” according to the litigation. “These discussions eventually led to a carefully tailored list of lot restrictions that had the practical effect of excluding every single lot within any Conservation District except specifically the Subject Parcel owned by Skull Island. This was not mere coincidence. The crafted lot restrictions were specifically crafted and intended to ensure that the Subject Parcel would receive special treatment with respect to every other parcel of land located within other Conservation Districts for the specific benefit of one individual.”

Mount Kisco Mayor Michael Cindrich declined to comment last week on the litigation. The Solar Law was approved the year after Cindrich was defeated by former mayor Gina Picinich.

On a different portion of the 180 S. Bedford Rd. property, the village approved a cell tower by Homeland Towers last year. There was no reference in the lawsuit to the cell tower.


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