The vice chairman of the Mount Kisco Planning Board recused himself last week from reviewing the proposed solar farm and cell tower applications for a 25-acre parcel because of a once tangential relationship to the property.
John Bainlardi said he will no longer participate in the board’s deliberations on the Homeland Towers proposal to build a 140-foot monopole antenna for cell carriers and Sunrise Community Solar’s plan for a solar farm at 180 S. Bedford Rd. so any possibility that his participation could be construed as a conflict of interest is removed.
Bainlardi explained that he was part of a limited liability company that had a development interest in the nearby property at 201 S. Bedford Rd., and that also owned 180 S. Bedford Rd. The 201 S. Bedford Rd. parcel is now owned by the Town of Bedford and 180 S. Bedford Road, located on the other side of the town line in Mount Kisco, was sold to its current owner, Skull Island Partners, in 2013.
Not only has seven years passed since the transaction was completed but the limited liability company was disbanded in 2017, he said.
“To be clear, I have no contractual relationship or other agreement, expressed or implied, of any kind with the current owner of the subject property or the applicants,” Bainlardi said.
Last Tuesday, the remainder of the Planning Board voted to name member Michael Bonforte as the acting chairman for the two 180 S. Bedford Rd. applications before discussion commenced on the Homeland Towers application.
Bainlardi said that despite having disclosed his prior connection to the property, “concerns alleging the existence of purported conflicts of interest continue to persist and have been recently amplified.”
Last month, several neighboring residents and the Mount Kisco Chase Homeowners Association were among the plaintiffs to file a lawsuit in state Supreme Court alleging spot zoning for the proposed solar farm, inadequate notification of the village’s 2018 public hearing to amend the zoning and conflicts of interest pertaining to Chairman Douglas Hertz, a principal in Sunrise Community Solar. The litigation also mentions Bainlardi’s potential appearance of a conflict of interest because of his prior business relationship with the previous owner.
Hertz has recused himself from both applications since the start of discussions.
Village Attorney Whitney Singleton said it was understandable that Bainlardi decided to step aside.
“Frankly, I don’t blame John in his position given some of the innuendo that was placed in some of that litigation,” Singleton said. “I think he’s doing what I would do if I was in his shoes. It’s unfortunate, but I think there has been a lot of inappropriate comment ascribed to John’s conduct.”
The village’s planning consultant Jan Johannessen has also recused himself because of a prior connection to the property. Simon Kates of BFJ Planning has been retained to serve as the village’s consultant on the applications.
At the Oct. 13 meeting, the board and Robert Gaudioso, the attorney representing Homeland Towers, discussed scheduling a balloon test to gauge potential visual impacts of the monopole and setting a public hearing.
Singleton and board members also asked Gaudioso to have his client explore alternate locations on the property in hopes that visual impacts could be minimized. However, Gaudioso said Homeland Towers has no access to any other portion of the land.
“The lease that matters are the lease rights today, and the lease rights that we have is where it’s proposed and those are the only lease rights we have,” he said.
The board asked Gaudioso to reach out to the property owner to see if there is a chance to consider alternate locations.
A date for the public hearing will be set at the board’s next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 27. Meanwhile, the balloon test will likely be done by the first part of November when more leaves have fallen off the trees.
Last month, the board decided that the solar farm and cell tower applications will see joint environmental review.
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/