EnvironmentGovernmentThe Examiner

Mt. Kisco Planning Board: Positive Declaration Warranted for Solar Field

News Article Article pages that do not meet specifications for other Trust Project Type of Work labels and also do not fit within the general news category.

We are part of The Trust Project

The Mount Kisco Planning Board signaled last week it will call for the more extensive environmental review of a proposed solar array because of the potential cumulative impacts with a cell tower at the same site.

All five board members indicated that a positive declaration under the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) is likely warranted because of aesthetic reasons, impact on plants and wildlife and questions of community character.

The Planning Board’s comments came despite a Village Board vote last month to relocate Homeland Towers’ proposed cell tower from the same 25-acre parcel at 180 S. Bedford Rd. to Leonard Park.

No vote on the determination was taken last week until Village Attorney Whitney Singleton can prepare a document for the board to formally accept and to give applicant SCS Sarles Street LLC an opportunity to return with any new information.

William Null, the attorney for SCS Sarles, had requested the board hold off on a vote for 30 to 60 days.

Despite the Village Board’s action on Mar. 21, there is no guarantee that the replacement of the parkland and subsequent permission from the state legislature will occur, board Chairman Michael Bonforte mentioned.

Bonforte said that he must review the solar farm application in the context of considering both applications that are currently before the board, not what might happen. Homeland Towers’ application has not been withdrawn.

“If the Leonard Park site does come to fruition, that may be a year or more, I don’t know,” Bonforte said. “We’re not even thinking about that. I can see a different scenario developing. But right in the here and now, as one member of the board, I’m seeing this on a cumulative basis, which is a significant adverse impact.”

At a board work session last month, the village’s environmental consultant revised his conclusions in three key areas from no or low impact to moderate to significant impact regarding the proposed solar farm’s effect on plants and animals, aesthetics and community character.

Other board members struggled with the decision but came to the same conclusion. Board member Michael McGuirk said that a positive declaration isn’t a denial but it triggers a more robust review and the requirements for an Environmental Impact Statement. McGuirk added that his reading of the language under SEQRA doesn’t require the board to believe that there will be significant adverse environmental impacts, only for its potential. He pointed out that more than 500 trees would be leveled.

“To me, it’s not just the visual and aesthetic impacts, which are significant,” he said. “It’s the solar application itself, it’s the aesthetics, and removal of habitats, it’s the steep slopes.”

Another board member, William Polese, said the decision was difficult but he had to take the more conservation approach and agree for the applicant to complete the longer environmental review.

Before board members’ comments, Null made his case for why a negative declaration was warranted. Null said for well over a year his client and their environmental consultants have responded to the board’s inquiries by providing so much information that there would be nothing new learned through a positive declaration.

“So a positive declaration that would put us on a 12-month or more length of time, potentially, and significantly cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to yield no new information different from what you have today, to me seems unnecessary,” Null said. “But more importantly, the reason, seemingly for the request for more information is based more on the Homeland Towers application than on our own.”

Homeland Towers has not appeared before the board in more than a year, first because it was in arrears in its escrow account. It was then searching for a suitable alternate site that would address the cell coverage gap along the Route 172 corridor.

Null argued that the aesthetics, for example, were much more significant with a 140-foot cell tower than it is for solar panels that would reach a maximum height of seven-and-a-half feet.

However, Bonforte pointed out that the parcel is adjacent to Marsh Sanctuary, which is a wooded area and there is community value associated with the sanctuary including its proximity to a historic amphitheater and walking trails that are part of the area’s character.

“The cell tower is more (impactful) to me, but it’s not as though the solar field is perfect, but again, we’re evaluating on a cumulative basis,” Bonforte said.

The Village Board is scheduled to resume its hearing Monday night on whether to begin eminent domain proceedings to acquire 180 S. Bedford Rd. to substitute the lost parkland at Leonard Park after its cell tower relocation vote.

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.