EnvironmentGovernmentThe Examiner

Residents Bash Revised Mt. Kisco Solar Farm Proposal

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The opening of the public hearing on a resubmitted application for a proposed Mount Kisco solar farm turned tense last week as neighbors argued that the revised plan would have environmental and quality of life consequences.

SCS Sarles Street, LLC II filed a similar but updated plan in May for a 2.6-megawatt ground-mounted solar array at 180 S. Bedford Rd., which would provide enough power for about 400 homes, said William Null, an attorney for the applicant.

The original application, submitted last year, was withdrawn earlier this year after the former Planning Board chairman, Doug Hertz, resigned because he is a principal with Sunrise Solar Solutions, the Briarcliff Manor-based company that would install the panels.

The new proposal reduces the number of solar panels to 5,764, down nearly 300 from the initial plan, and moves all the panels out of the 200-foot buffer from the property line, said Dawn McKenzie, the project’s landscape architect.

However, the current iteration of the plan removes a total of 684 trees, an increase of 52 trees from the original proposal, and one of the retention basins is in the buffer, McKenzie said. Of the trees currently slated for removal, 164 of them are in the buffer.

“The urgency of taking us away from carbon-based energy and providing meaningful sustainable energy is what this project is all about,” Null said.

However, speakers during the hearing strongly opposed the project because it would still jeopardize the sensitive environmental features near the site and negatively impact quality of life. The 25-acre parcel borders Marsh Sanctuary.

“The irony of this application, which represents itself as a green initiative, is far from it when we consider the required destruction of an established greenspace,” said Brentwood Court resident George Coppola. “This isn’t a green initiative, it’s a greed initiative.”

Attorney P. Daniel Hollis, representing three members of the Pietrobono family, who live closest to the parcel, said there was little difference between the two applications and the deleterious impacts on the environment and the neighbors.

He also contended that another application on another part of the same property, Homeland Towers’ proposal for a cell tower, must be considered in tandem with the solar farm under the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). Homeland Towers has not been back before the Planning Board since last winter when that applicant began searching for an alternative site. Homeland also went months without keeping an escrow account, which forced the Planning Board to repeatedly adjourn the public hearing on the proposed cell tower.

“This plan is hardly in keeping with the purposes and intent, it’s hardly in keeping with the village’s efforts to conserve land along the gateway,” said Hollis, who got into a shouting match at one point with Acting Chairman Michael Bonforte who invoked a time limit for speakers. “What I believe cannot be controverted as well, despite protestations to the contrary, the SEQRA process has been contaminated by segmentation. There’s no way you can divorce this case from the Homeland (Towers) case because they’re both part of the same public utility substation.”

Village Trustee Peter Grunthal, participating in the hearing as a resident, said the project needs to be scaled back because the panels are too close to the buffer.

“The intensity of the solar panels is taken to the maximum by positioning them at the closest possible point to that 200-foot line,” Grunthal said. “They would be less intense if they are set back several feet from the line (providing) enough space for the last few retention basins to be back from that line and not in the buffer.”

McKenzie said the stormwater retention basins would encroach into the buffer is because there are strict parameters in positioning them, including the need for adequate separation, on a downhill slope and on land that has no more than a 15 percent grade.

Some trees in the buffer also need to be removed because there would be the risk of shading a portion of the array.

Board member Ralph Vigliotti recommended that the applicant scale back the project enough to ensure the buffer intrusion isn’t an issue.

“With all due respect, you put a solar farm in a 25-acre forest, there are trees, and trees will come down and trees will grow, Vigliotti said. “So in 10 years those trees that are four inches in caliper may be 10 inches in caliper.”

Null responded that SCS Sarles is using the least forested portion of the site, where a private home once stood. There will be about 3.5 acres in ground coverage and about eight acres of total disturbance.

He added that the village’s buffer is for distance and not for environmental purposes.

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