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Mount Kisco Approves Findings for Eminent Domain Potential
The Mount Kisco Village Board voted to continue with the eminent domain process last week for a 25-acre parcel that would serve as open space and replacement parkland if a proposed cell tower is relocated to Leonard Park.
By a 4-1 vote, the board accepted the findings statement and to potentially pursue the purchase of 180 S. Bedford Road, although it remains unclear whether officials will ultimately move in that direction.
“Accepting findings and voting affirmatively to move forward does not commit us to making this acquisition through eminent domain if at any point in time we choose not to,” Mayor Gina Picinich said after the Aug. 29 vote.
Complicating the process is that there are two applicants, Homeland Towers and SCS Sarles Street, LLC, that are looking to site a cell tower and an array of solar panels, respectively, at 180 S. Bedford Rd. The village also remains in negotiation with Homeland Towers regarding a possible lease for the cell tower that the village must eventually site, Picinich said.
The board has received intense criticism from some residents adamantly opposed to using a piece of Leonard Park, in the general vicinity of holes 6 and 7 of the disc golf course, to site a cell tower. Other residents in the village and in Bedford, which the property borders, have been in favor of the move to save the South Bedford Road property from being used for a solar array and cell tower and to be possibly part of a network of walking trails.
Picinich said the village has requested to view the leases that have been signed by Homeland Towers and SCS Sarles Street with 180 S. Bedford Rd. property owner Skull Island Partners. The mayor, who acknowledged that the land owner is under no obligation to furnish the leases, said officials want to have as much information as possible since the village is considering buying the property without invoking eminent domain.
The land was last bought about eight years ago for $1.5 million and has almost certainly increased in value.
Last week, Picinich said she was against using eminent domain unless it’s absolutely necessary.
“I am, generally speaking, opposed to the government taking property from a private property owner unless there’s an important public need,” she said. “If the village wanted to acquire the property for open space, active and passive recreation, I would prefer to purchase the property outright.”
The property is in the Conservation Development zone, which places a 35 percent maximum threshold on development of the parcel.
Deputy Mayor Lisa Abzun said while it isn’t known whether the village will decide to obtain 180 S. Bedford Rd., last week’s decision keeps all options on the table.
“We need to make sure that we enable ourselves, our board and our village to have as many tools available and get the greatest benefit for the people in our village,” Abzun said.
Trustee Karen Schleimer, who also supported the action last week, said by keeping alive the possibility of eminent domain, it does not mean the board is approving the cell tower relocation to Leonard Park.
“It merely means the possibility of acquiring the 25 acres is still in play, is still open,” Schleimer explained. “If we don’t vote to approve the eminent domain and decided to do it later, we go back to square one with public hearings and the approval of the short form Environmental Assessment Form as we talked about this evening. It sets us back and makes us repeat steps that we’ve already taken.”
Trustee Anne Bianchi was the dissenting vote against accepting the findings but did not explain why she came to that conclusion.
The Village Board has up to three years to decide if it wants to move forward with eminent domain under the law. If it is pursued, the courts would decide the fair market value of the South Bedford Road property.
“This board is really doing their due diligence and trying to make the decisions that have the least negative impact that benefits the whole community,” Picinich said.
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/