The public rancor between the Mount Kisco Planning Board and village board escalated last week when it was announced that trustees are considering a reduction from seven to five planning board members.
The village board voted 4-1 last Tuesday to schedule an Oct. 24 public hearing on the matter. Voting in favor of setting the hearing were Mayor Michael Cindrich, Deputy Mayor Anthony Markus and trustees Jean Farber and Peter Grunthal. Grunthal headed a task force earlier this year charged with helping the village streamline the project approval process. One recommendation was to reduce the number of planning board members to five.
Trustee Karen Schleimer voted against scheduling the hearing because trustees first needed to decide on the status of four members whose reappointments were tabled more than nine months ago.
Last December, trustees took no action on the reappointments of planning board members Anthony Sturniolo, Ralph Vigliotti and Enrico Mareschi to full three-year terms. In addition, the trustees did not reappoint Joseph Cosentino as chairman and Sturniolo as vice chair for this year. However, the four members continue to serve in their capacities.
Following last week’s meeting, Cindrich said he wanted to reduce the size of the planning board because it would be easier to achieve a quorum.
“Over the last four years we’ve had difficulties with (getting quorums),” he said.
Cindrich said the four members could re-apply for their positions after the trustees determined if the size of the board should be reduced.
Last week resident Gina Picinich read a letter on behalf of more than 25 local families who supported a smaller planning board. Her letter also stated that the members who had their appointments tabled last December should not be reappointed.
“We take seriously the need to attract new businesses to downtown Mount Kisco,” the letter stated. “It is widely believed in the business, architecture, legal and real estate communities that the Mount Kisco Planning Board is a barrier to starting a business in our village.
“We are requesting an immediate change in leadership,” the letter continued. “The appointment of a new planning board chairman will send a decisive message that the Village of Mount Kisco is taking demonstrable action to improve the process.”
The correspondence added that the call for change “is not an indictment of any individual, nor is it a request to relax standards. It is simply a recognition that the Village of Mount Kisco must adapt and move forward.”
Cosentino, Vigliotti and Mareschi, who criticized the village board at its Sept. 12 work session, ripped officials for their latest proposal.
“It is a way to get rid of planning board members,” Cosentino said.
Cosentino, who has served for 30 years, noted that his current three-year term is set to expire in December and he would not seek another term.
He then accused Cindrich of asking Picinich, a co-executive director of the Mount Kisco Chamber of Commerce, to write the letter that she read last week.
Mareschi, who said that Picinich “has no idea” what the planning board is responsible for, said it would be impractical to reduce planning board size. It has failed to get quorums in the past because of illness, and if one or two members fall ill on a five-member board, there would be the danger that meetings could not convene.
He said some residents were attempting to make the planning board the scapegoat for widespread vacant commercial properties. The planning board has no jurisdiction over filling a storefront vacancy if the property’s use doesn’t change, Mareschi said.
Cindrich and Picinich last week denied they orchestrated last week’s letter.
“Without reservation I can say that I did not request the letter be written or presented,” Cindrich said. “The idea of reducing the planning board from seven to five was a recommendation of the task force presented to the community this past April. I believe the recommendation was made to address the issue of meetings being canceled because of the inability to assemble a quorum.”
“I find it unfortunate that the chairman of the planning board and others would choose to make this personal, rather than focus on facts and recognize the need for change,” Picinich said. “The chairman was a member of the task force that made more than 20 recommendations to improve the planning board process. Our letter called for the implementation of all of the recommendations.”