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Proposed Mt. Kisco Energy Storage Facility Raises Safety Concerns

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Mount Kisco officials are grappling with whether a battery energy storage facility (BESS) proposed for the Diamond Properties complex at 333 N. Bedford Rd. should be developed given vague wording in the village’s zoning code.

New Leaf Energy of Lowell, Mass. has an application pending before the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to install a Tesla Megapack 2 XL facility adjacent to the soccer field at the site. The applicant is appealing Building Inspector Peter Miley’s interpretation from December that the BESS should not be allowed because the code lacks a definition for public utility facilities.

Attorney Robert Gaudioso, representing New Leaf Energy, has argued that a BESS is a public utility facility, and if a municipality’s code is silent regarding its permissibility, then it would need to be approved.

“The reason this is important is to have renewables, to have solar, to have wind, to have things of that nature, you have to have storage,” Gaudioso said at the ZBA’s last meeting on May 21. “If you don’t have storage, they’re unreliable.”

He pointed out that without storage facilities such as this one throughout the state, New York will be unable to achieve its goal of having 70 percent of its power derived from renewable sources by 2030 and have carbon-free electricity by 2040.

In case it cannot convince the ZBA to override Miley’s interpretation, New Leaf is prepared to submit a use variance for the facility, Gaudioso said.

Last week, Mayor Michael Cindrich said he was surprised by the application, which was submitted late last year. Cindrich said he has received calls from residents in other communities in northern Westchester where concerns over potential health risks, proximity to children and people’s homes and fire have become an issue with other proposed facilities.

After searching through Village Hall, the mayor said he has yet to find a correspondence from Gaudioso or any New Leaf Energy representative informing the village of their intentions.

“Recently, I was blindsided by an application with a similar proposal right here in Mount Kisco, that according to the attorney representing the applicant, had indicated to me, that he alerted the village in writing of this proposal well over a year ago,” Cindrich said.

Last Monday, during the Village Board’s last meeting, he asked trustees Lisa Abzun and Karen Schleimer, the only two remaining board members who served all of last year, whether they had known anything about the letter. Abzun said she had not seen it while Schleimer explained that she had but couldn’t recall which month it was sent.

Village Manager Ed Brancati said the village may also propose local legislation in hopes of regulating these types of facilities in the future.

“There are people talking in the village that have concerns. People spoke out at the zoning board meeting,” Cindrich mentioned. “A couple spoke out at the meeting. Some are advocating for a moratorium on this type of installation. In any event, I’m following it closely. We should all be concerned. It’s another issue that could spiral out of control that is a major, major issue for public services and the fire department.

At the May 21 public hearing before the ZBA, resident Jay Spielvogel told the board that although the facility is an industrial use in a Light Manufacturing zone, there is a field where children play sports next to it as well as the public that travels to and from the complex.

“When I heard that this was being placed literally adjacent to a children’s soccer field, a recreational facility, a train station and a propane place, is there any consideration, especially in light of even this past week, or last week, about an explosion at one of these across the country, that while it’s an industrial use it’s also a soccer field, where children play,” Spielvogel said.

ZBA Chair Warren Spector responded that while those are valid concerns, it was not related to the interpretation of the zoning related to public utility facilities. Concerns about safety, mitigating risks and other factors would be addressed during site plan review should the application progress to that point.

Several ZBA members also mentioned they would like to receive feedback from Con Edison rather than rely on a for-profit entity. The utility would tap into the facility to supplement its power during the peak demand hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“The fact is that the code’s vague,” said board member George Hoyt. “I wish it weren’t vague, but it is vague. So I feel I need more information, if possible.”

Another member, Jacqueline Broth, said she was less comfortable because she felt there are verbal semantics being used to manipulate the code’s language.

The ZBA will meet next to discuss the application on June 18, where it may be ready to provide its interpretation.

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