Mt. Kisco Solar Farm Applicant: Project Would Have No Adverse Impact

Improvements to the plans of a proposed Mount Kisco solar farm would cause minimal neighborhood and environmental impacts, representatives for the applicant told the village’s Planning Board last week.

Sunrise Community Solar, which hopes to install a 2.5 million-kilowatt ground-mounted solar array on a 5.7-acre portion of the 25-acre parcel at 180 Bedford Rd., is looking for the board to issue a negative declaration, which would avoid an extensive and lengthier review.

William Null, the attorney for Sunrise Community Solar, said that an Environmental Impact Statement is not being prepared as part of the review. He said the project engineer has submitted revised plans that addresses tree clearing, noise and visual impacts, among other factors, and there is a revised Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan.

A financial analysis has also been submitted to the village explain the sizing and operations of the solar facility as well as a carbon analysis and a report to Con Edison.

Although the project will be evaluated for cumulative impacts with Homeland Towers’ proposed cell tower, which would currently be placed to the northeast of the solar array on the same property, the board can choose to make separate determinations, Null said.

“We don’t believe that a positive declaration should be adopted at this point or on this record at all,” he said.

Rich Williams, of Insite Engineering, said the topography of the land, proposed landscaping and fencing and clearing fewer trees than what had been previously discussed would help to shield the array from most vantage points.

Williams said that Sunrise Community Solar is using an area that is not only at a lower elevation but is relatively open as a result of previous development at the site. In all, 619 trees would be removed while 219 trees would be replanted for a net loss of 400.

There would be 17 acres of trees that would be undisturbed, he said.

“We took advantage of the existing development that historically occurred on the property in the center area,” Williams said.

No lighting is proposed for the site, there is no noise impact and drawings depict the top of the steep slope from Sarles Street to help block the view of the array. A seven-foot fence along Sarles Street is 12.8 feet back from the steep slope, according to Williams. The nearest solar panel is 25 feet from the slope, he said.

Despite the net loss of 400 trees, which amounts to about 440,000 pounds of carbon on an annual basis, the solar farm would save 12 times that number in greenhouse gas emissions, Williams said.

“I do believe we have gone the distance in showing that we don’t have a significant adverse impact,” he said.

Board member Ralph Vigliotti said he wanted to know why the applicant can’t meet the 200-foot buffer requirement that is established in the village code. He said that the financial report provides no evidence of a hardship if the panels were removed from the buffer.

Vigliotti said he would like to support the project but doesn’t understand why there needs to be encroachment.

“I don’t see why this project can’t meet the 200-foot buffer, particularly on the south side facing the (Mount Kisco) Chase (development) and on the east side facing Sarles Street,” Vigliotti said.

Williams said that if it encroaches into the buffer on the Sarles Street side it won’t be seen from that spot. He added that the panels are eight feet off the ground and will be largely hidden even if extending into the buffer.

“If they were single-family homes, and they’d obviously be much taller than the eight feet or so than the solar panels would be,” Null said.

The public hearing featured a handful of speakers who were skeptical about aspects of the plan. Neighboring homeowner Rex Pietrobono said the buffers don’t exist for an applicant to use but serve as protection for runoff and disturbance for the neighborhood.

“Scale the project so you can fit into the property,” Pietrobono said.

Simon Skolnik, chair of the Bedford Conservation Board, said if there is runoff from the site that is created by the project it would be the neighboring municipality that would suffer the most. He requested that Bedford’s town engineer be allowed to evaluate its impact on their side of the town line.

“We just feel that if there are going to be any problems with runoff, it will be affecting Bedford,” Skolnik said. “It’s going to run off onto Sarles Street and cause Bedford the problem.”

The hearing was adjourned until another upcoming meeting.

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