GovernmentThe Examiner

Mount Kisco Cell Tower Relocation, Eminent Domain Weighed

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Mount Kisco officials are considering possible relocation of a proposed cell tower to a remote portion of Leonard Park and reclaiming the lost parkland by potentially using eminent domain to acquire the current site.

Mayor Gina Picinich said last week that the Village Board is seeking feedback from residents and property and business owners within the village to provide direction about whether to move Homeland Towers’ 140-foot monopole from 180 S. Bedford Rd. to a nearly 5,000-square-foot section of the park.

If moved to the park, a 130-foot monopole would be sited in the middle of greenspace far from the ballfields and pool complex and about 1,000 feet from the closest residence.

Public input is also being sought to weigh two options for the required replacement of the lost parkland should Leonard Park be chosen as the new location for the cell tower – part of a 70-acre portion of Kisco Mountain or whether to initiate eminent domain proceedings for the 25-acre site on South Bedford Road.

The current location proposed for the tower is on about a 3,200-square-foot piece of the South Bedford Road site and would only be 280 feet to the closest house.

Picinich said a cell tower is needed on the eastern side of the village to close coverage gaps along the South Bedford Road corridor. As a result, the village is being compelled under federal regulations to approve a tower that will address the coverage needs in that area.

“We are seeking public comment,” Picinich said. “We want to hear from the community. We need to determine where the location would be to site a cell tower.”

Other potential alternative sites have met roadblocks. The rooftop of Northern Westchester Hospital and a property on Linden Lane would not provide the needed coverage.

Another possibility was an existing tower on Guard Hill in Bedford that is currently used by emergency services. However, last week Bedford Historical Society Executive Director Evelyne Ryan said the deed restriction drawn up by the now deceased previous land owner prohibited any commercial utilization of the land. The historical society, which is a third party to that deed, will continue to adhere to that restriction, she said.

There has been extensive pushback from residents against using 180 S. Bedford Rd. for the cell tower as well as a proposed solar farm, particularly those from the neighboring Mount Kisco Chase complex.

Last week several residents who have been speaking regularly against the two projects were mostly in favor of moving ahead with relocating the tower to the park and pursuing eminent domain procedures. By acquiring the land, the village would effectively stop both projects at that site.

Nigel Sizer, a board member at the nearby Marsh Sanctuary, said opponents of the tower and solar farm would like to work closely with village officials on the eminent domain process and also to find private donations to help offset the cost of the land.

Sizer said the property should be brought into the public realm and made part of the village’s open and accessible space.

“This area is incredibly strategic to do this, it is right next to Marsh Sanctuary, it connects to Leonard Park. There are wonderful proposals to expand the trails through that area, it has immense historical importance as well with the amphitheater and a wealth of history,” Sizer said.

The land sold to the current owner in 2014 for $1.5 million, said Village Attorney Whitney Singleton. It is a virtual certainty that the fair market value for the property is now greater than that.

Picnich said the village currently has between $1.2 million and $1.3 million in its open space fund to use for a purchase, but maintained the village would not borrow to pay for its acquisition.

“I am not in favor of taking on debt, taking on additional debt for this purpose,” she said.

Resident Rex Pietrobono, who lives closest to the property, said he agrees eminent domain is the best option.

“If you don’t get in front of this, as you have been, it’s going to be put in Mount Kisco and it actually services Bedford,” Pietrobono said of the tower. “So, as has happened before, Mount Kisco receives all of the headaches and doesn’t get much, if any, of the benefits.”

One opponent of the plan was resident David Grant, who would be the closest resident to the tower at the Leonard Park site. He urged the village to press the Bedford Historical Society to see if it would be willing to allow carriers to locate on the Guard Hill tower.

The Village Board is scheduled to open a public hearing on the eminent domain process for its next meeting on Feb. 23. The issue of whether to locate the tower at Leonard Park and keep it at South Bedford Road is also expected to be discussed.

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