Objections over a proposed solar farm on a portion of a 25-acre parcel in Mount Kisco continue to intensify even as an adjournment of the public hearing was granted last week by the Planning Board.
Sunrise Community Solar of Briarcliff Manor is looking to receive approvals to build a 2.5 million-kilowatt ground-mounted solar array at 180 S. Bedford Rd. near Sarles Street. Several days before the meeting, Attorney William Null, representing Sunrise Community Solar, explained in a letter to the Planning Board that his client will need more time to address issues raised at the July 14 hearing.
The Planning Board granted the request and adjourned the hearing until Sept. 22.
However, there is growing frustration among nearby residents regarding the potential addition of a cell tower to the land by a separate applicant and the clearing of close to 700 trees to accommodate the solar panels. At its Aug. 3 meeting, the Village Board was peppered with comments and concerns from several neighbors.
One of the issues raised by residents is that when the village passed its solar law in late 2018 to allow for solar arrays in a Conservation Development District, which the property is zoned, there wasn’t adequate environmental review. Now, several are calling for the most extensive review because of a variety of potential impacts, from stormwater runoff to wildlife.
“We need a positive declaration to be agreed upon at this point in time and a full environmental impact be done to make sure that the destruction of 700 trees, the water retention and runoff that will happen, the changes in the environment that we, who purchased our properties, does not impact our lives, our values and the beauty of the community,” said Mount Kisco Chase resident David Schwartz.
Sarles Street resident John Stockbridge, who is also a board member of the nearby Marsh Sanctuary, urged village officials to find an alternate location for the solar panels because of the large number of trees that must be cleared.
Stockbridge also echoed previous sentiments from neighbors who understand the need for solar but were surprised by the sudden consideration of a cell tower.
“The cell tower is very over the top,” he said. “That makes no sense from everybody’s point of view.”
Residents, some of whom had been leery of the solar farm but showed a willingness to work with Sunrise Community Solar, have turned suspicious after learning of the possibility of a cell tower a few days before the July 14 hearing. As of last month there had been no formal submission, but a cell tower was referenced in a letter from Null to the Planning Board that appeared online in the packet of materials regarding the solar farm before the last meeting.
Village Attorney Whitney Singleton said that there is still a lengthy review that must be completed before the solar panel project can be approved. All of the project’s potential impacts will be considered by the Planning Board.
However, the village’s updated Comprehensive Plan allows for solar panels under the zoning, he said.
“This is a permitted use on the zoning, it’s consistent with the Master Plan, it was called for in the Master Plan and it’s a use that the Planning Board has set forth with substantial setbacks and buffer requirements to make sure that the neighboring parties are protected, and it’s a very low impact as far as traffic,” Singleton said.
Mayor Gina Picinich said that no more than 35 percent of the property can be developed in a Conservation Development zone, which would limit the extent of a project.
When asked by residents for the village to reject consideration of any cell tower application, the mayor said that’s not permissible.
“The village can’t stop applications,” Picinich said. “The village, and the Village Board specifically, their role is that applications follow the appropriate processes and procedures and have minimal impact on the environment.”
But resident Jerry Romski said a positive declaration must now be issued for the project because of the potential significant impacts.
“Perhaps they can mitigate them, perhaps they can’t, but it certainly should be conducted,” he said.