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Mt. Kisco to Hold Eminent Domain Hearing, Cell Tower Q&A on Saturday

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Residents opposing acquisition of a 25-acre property through eminent domain persuaded the Mount Kisco Village Board last week to resume the public hearing this Saturday and include a question-and-answer session regarding cell tower relocation to Leonard Park.

Critics and supporters returned to the Village Board meeting on Apr. 18 in hopes of swaying officials on the potential launch of eminent domain proceedings to purchase the site of a proposed solar farm and cell tower at 180 S. Bedford Rd.

The board, which entertained the idea of closing the formal hearing on eminent domain last week, decided to hold at least one more session this Saturday at the Mount Kisco Library at 3:30 p.m. The forum will also allow for questions related to the board’s Mar. 7 vote that authorized moving the cell tower from the South Bedford Road site to a back portion of the park provided it receives approvals at the state level.

Officials are considering buying the 25 acres on South Bedford Road where the twin applications are being considered by the Planning Board. The purchase would satisfy the requirements of replacing the loss of about 11,000 square feet of land at Leonard Park.

Resident Robert Dagostino, who opposes both eminent domain and the cell tower at the park, has pressed for additional public forums on both issues, since the board’s Mar. 7 vote to relocate the tower. He and others have asked for the board to engage with the community on the two difficult topics in sessions outside the formal twice-monthly meetings.

Dagostino said among the key questions that should be answered related to the tower at the park includes how the village intends to get power to the site, where it will store a 500-gallon diesel fuel tanker at the site, how it plans to navigate steep slopes and for the village to identify the exact location of the tower.

“I think that a decision of this magnitude that will affect thousands and thousands of children for future generations needs to be seriously considered,” Dagostino said. “Although we have already voted on the cell tower in the park, it is not, as you have told me before, is not complete. I have asked you to tap the brakes, and I seriously ask you to tap the brakes now and reconsider and tap the brakes, hold off until we have multiple public hearings involving all residents of our community.”

The board agreed to hold a special Saturday session at the library. Village Trustee Karen Schleimer said she has heard from many residents who are unable to make the weeknight regular board meetings and would welcome a weekend afternoon.

“My feeling is I don’t see the harm and I think there is great benefit to letting people voice their concerns, voice their opinions and for us to hear what people have to say,” Schleimer said.

During last week’s hearing, former village mayor Michael Cindrich suggested that the board is considering eminent domain for the South Bedford Road parcel for the wrong reasons. It seems to be based on outcry from nearby residents and representatives from the adjacent Marsh Sanctuary who have been outspoken against a possible cell tower and solar farm rather than a defined public use, he said.

“This I don’t consider a public use,” Cindrich said of the potential acquisition. “I consider it a land grab to prevent development that nobody wants. I have to preface this: I don’t want it either.”

Cindrich later added that he might be able to support eminent domain if the village were to use the land for ball fields or other active recreational purposes.

However, the public benefit would be “an amazing addition” to the village’s park inventory and open space, said Conservation Advisory Council Chair John Rhodes. He said there is also space at the 25-acre site for the village to create a parking area and there are trails nearby.

“If you look at it in a balanced way, you can start to see there are plusses and minuses but you have to look at it in an honest and direct way and not alter the facts to suit your very much justified emotional reaction to the situation with the cell tower,” Rhodes said.

Resident Rex Pietrobono, whose house would be less than 300 feet from the cell tower at 180 S. Bedford Rd., said there would be no way to screen the base of the tower near his home while most people would not see it at Leonard Park.

It is still unknown how much the village would have to pay for the 25 acres until there is an appraisal. It was sold to the current owner in 2013 for $1.5 million.

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