The Examiner

Mt. Kisco Eyes Tightening Language in Code Regulating Wireless

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The Mount Kisco Village Board will hold a public hearing next Monday to clarify portions of the municipality’s zoning code that aims to keep new wireless infrastructure within the Personal Wireless Facilities Overlay District.

Village officials said language in the ordinance needs to be strengthened to encourage applicants looking to erect cell towers to do so within the district. Applicants have specific requirements they must meet within and outside the district.

“They should be subject to an identifiable set of actions to prove to the village that they made a diligent effort to locate within the district where we want them before they are allowed to go outside,” said Village Attorney Whitney Singleton.

During the board’s meeting last Monday where the hearing was scheduled for Jan. 4 at 7 p.m., members did not mention the controversial Homeland Towers application to site a 140-foot tower on a portion of a 25-acre parcel at 180 S. Bedford. Rd. That proposal, which is located outside the district, has generated intense opposition from nearby neighbors in part because it would be coupled with a solar farm, uses that in tandem many have argued are inappropriate for the location.

Mayor Gina Picinich said there have been questions about the interpretation of the section of the code, part of Chapter 110, and the board and its staff want to make the language as precise as possible.

She explained that the code isn’t being changed but rather clarified to make sure there is no confusion for applicants or the public.

“We believe the purpose and the intent of having an overlay district is to encourage the cellular infrastructure to be in the overlay district and to demonstrate that every effort has been made to do that,” Picinich said. “So in instances where they have to go outside of the overlay district, they have to demonstrate that the need exists and the criteria is more stringent than if you were outside the overlay district.”

Changes in technology over the past 20-plus years is also playing a factor in the village’s decision to tighten the code’s language, Singleton said.

“We have a very well-written ordinance but it is 24 years old and cell phone technology was not exactly the same back then as it is now,” he said. “This is an anomaly, a hole in our zoning which can be interpreted in a particular way and it’s been interpreted in two different ways in the past and we’re just trying to avoid any doubt about its applicability.”

Mount Kisco isn’t the only municipality that is facing issues related to siting cell towers. Since last year, the village has been partnering with several other northern Westchester communities in hopes of finding cross-border solutions by devising a cellular master plan when carriers look to locate another tower, Picinich said.

The village has joined with Bedford, Somers, Yorktown and Lewisboro, among other towns, to review existing cell coverage throughout the northern tier of the county and to determine the best locations based on the coverage gaps that have been reported by cell carriers, she said.

Verizon, which would be the anchor carrier for the tower at 180 S. Bedford Rd., has reported gaps along the Route 172 corridor for that portion of Mount Kisco and into Bedford.

Next Monday’s hearing will be live-streamed via Zoom.

Property Tax Deferment Hearing Set

The Village Board is also holding a public hearing tonight at 7 p.m. that will look to repeat the deferment of village property taxes for those residents who have reported financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. It is essentially the same legislation that the board signed into law last spring for the year’s first-half taxes.

The deadline to pay the second half year taxes is Dec. 31, and would be extended to Feb. 28. However, there are specific eligibility requirements for a homeowner to qualify for the extension.

To be granted the deferment, homeowners must use the house as their primary residence, must receive a school-tax STAR program exemption and pay their taxes directly to the municipality and not through an escrow account. The homeowner must also prove loss of income caused by the pandemic and sign an affidavit.

Only the payment of village property taxes would be postponed by this action.

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