Residents living near the 25-acre parcel in Mount Kisco where a solar farm and a cell tower are proposed are stepping up pressure on village officials in hopes of halting the projects.
A petition containing 124 signatures was submitted to the village Planning Board last Thursday, contending that the solar farm would risk degrading the environment and the quality of life for the neighbors. The property, located at 180 S. Bedford Rd., is also adjacent to the Marsh Sanctuary.
One solution posed by the petitioners is for the Village Board to rescind its November 2018 approval to allow for a solar array in the Conservation Development District, which the parcel is zoned.
“The is an affront to both Mother Nature and our community,” said Mount Kisco Chase resident Maryann Tarnok who read the petition and a few of its attached comments to the Village Board at its Sept. 10 meeting.
The petition’s submission came during a week where the Planning Board publicly discussed for the first time Homeland Towers’ and Verizon’s plans to build a 140-foot monopine wireless communications facility on a more than 3,000-square-foot portion of the same property. The structure’s canopy that could accommodate several additional carriers would add another five feet to the tower.
During much of the final hour of last week’s Village Board meeting, residents lodged repeated objections against either one or both uses. John Stockbridge, a member of the Marsh Sanctuary board, said the cell tower would be detrimental to the sanctuary and its 156 acres.
“This tower project and the physical intrusion would be immense,” Stockbridge said. “A cell tower at this location would be anathema to the mission of the sanctuary and also violate the original plans of the village to protect open space.”
John Rhodes, the chairman of the Mount Kisco Conservation Advisory Council, said the Planning Board has both legal and ethical questions to consider.
“There’s a lot of complex, thorny issues and it appears to me and a lot of other individuals that the Planning Board, even under the acting chairman is really giving short shrift to a lot of these issues and a lot of the insufficiencies in the applications,” Rhodes said.
Resident George Coppola charged more bluntly that because one of the principals of the applicant, Solar Community Solar, is Planning Board Chairman Douglas Hertz, it raises questions about whether the remainder of the board can be objective. Hertz has recused himself from discussions for both applications, but Vice Chairman John Bainlardi was the former property owner who sold the parcel to its current owner, Skull Island Partners, Coppola said.
Mayor Gina Picinich said the decision to pass legislation to allow for a solar farm was to have a less intense use for the land.
“We looked at this property and we specifically said, yes, this makes sense because it would be loss of intensification of use, no roads, no schoolchildren,” Picinich said. “There had been opposition to building homes here, so that was all part of the conversation.”
A key issue regarding the two applications is whether the Planning Board evaluates environmental impact of the two projects together or separately. Last Wednesday evening the Planning Board huddled with its counsel to discuss the issue. The board is expected to announce its determination at an upcoming meeting.
Village Attorney Whitney Singleton said the board must determine whether it’s a Type I, Type II or an unlisted action in evaluating environmental impacts. A Type I action is the more likely to have adverse environmental impacts while Type II would have the least, he said.
An unlisted action falls between the two and gives the board broad discretion regarding environmental impacts.