By Sean Browne
The Mount Kisco Village Board opened a hearing last week on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) request for a special permit that would allow modifications to the plan to build a taller communications tower on Mountain Avenue.
A new structure is needed by the MTA to improve emergency communications in the area. The applicant, Crown Castle, would replace the current 86-foot tower with a 114-foot tower at the same site. It would serve all four major cell phone carriers.
The village and the MTA agreed to have the larger communications tower at the site of the existing tower on Mountain Avenue rather than its originally-proposed location.
“The MTA was proposing to put a 180-foot monopole on their property right by where the Tesla (dealership) is on the side of the railroad tracks,” said Mayor Gina Picinich. “How the MTA operates is much like the state, they are not bound by our rules and regulations.”
John Vallarelli, an MTA Police Department captain and deputy project manager for the Metropolitan Regional Radio System, said the project is critical to MTA operations.
“Our radio system has failed, and has been cited by the New York State Department of Labor as being unsafe for our officers,” Vallarelli said. “So, with that in mind the agency has tried to do a lot to mitigate that, and that is why this radio project is so important.”
It would also be useful for the village’s first responders, who would benefit from the tower by having improved communications, Vallarelli said. He said he has also been in contact with Westchester County police.
David J. Kenny of Snyder & Snyder LLP, the attorney for Crown Castle, said the replacement tower would greatly expand cell service in and around the village because currently that area only carries AT&T and T-Mobile. The larger tower would also include Verizon and Sprint, he said.
With the additional cell phone coverage, Picinich described the project as a “win” for the village.
However, Trustee Karen Schleimer expressed concern that the taller tower would be an eyesore for residents. Kenny pointed out that after photo simulations of the facility, the tower is already taller than the trees in the surrounding area so adding the extra height would not make a major difference.
John Rhodes, chairman of the Mount Kisco Conservation Advisory Council (CAC), who opposed a new tower that had been discussed several months ago at Leonard Park, said he supported this application because terrain isn’t being cleared to install the tower.
Vallarelli urged the board to move quickly because the MTA needs to improve its communications as soon as possible. He said the agency hopes the new tower can be completed no later than September.
“The longer this takes, the shorter window we have,” Vallarelli said.
Last week, the board adjourned the public hearing until its Apr. 29 meeting but did not close the hearing. Trustees concluded that the matter should be returned to the Planning Board. Picinich stressed the importance of keeping the Planning Board, lead agency for the project, up-to-date on this matter.
Kenny then asked the board to enact a Monroe Balancing Test, which exempts governmental units such as the MTA from zoning in certain situations and could speed the process.
The board rejected the request because it has never been used before in the village. Picinich said she understood the urgency but the town must follow proper procedures.
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