By Sean Browne
Creating an environmentally sensitive layout for Sunrise Solar Solutions’ proposed ground-mounted solar array at Mount Kisco’s Oakwood Cemetery layout was the focus of the opening of a public hearing before the village’s Planning Board last Tuesday.
Sunrise Solar Solutions, a Briarcliff Manor-based installer of solar systems, is proposing about 3,600 panels on about four acres on the northern portion of the grounds as part of a lease agreement with the Lexington Avenue cemetery.
“We [Insite Engineering] have been working with Sunrise Solar Solutions and we have been working with the town to develop a plan that is compliant with the town’s solar regulations,” said Scott Blakley, senior principal landscape architect at Insite Engineering. “We believe that we have created an environmentally sensitive layout.”
The proposed action would generate about 1.7 gigawatt hours of power annually, enough energy to provide roughly 200 Mount Kisco homes with electricity. In order to generate that power, 13 trees must be removed from that portion of the site.
“A number of trees will be removed along the western edge [of the cemetery],” Blakley said. “We are proposing to cut the trees and leave the stumps to minimize disturbance along that edge. We are trying to maximize the amount of sun exposure to the solar arrays.”
Blakley said trees in the eastern part of the cemetery must also be removed. The cemetery plans to plant and grow evergreens to offset the loss of the removed trees, he said. It is still not known how many trees will be replaced.
Accommodating the solar panels may not be the only reason for the tree removal. Blakley said that some of the trees are dying so removing them would be justified. That claim was supported by Planning Board member Michael Bonforte.
“I have looked at those trees, and the ones that have come down are in similar height and stature as the others where the root structure can’t support them anymore, so they do need to come down from a safety point of view,” Bonforte said.
Sunrise Solar Solutions would be able to install 3,600 panels on 162 tables. Those tables would be mounted on a frame that is secured to the ground. Blakley assured the board that there would be limited ground disturbance to install the solar frames.
John Rhodes, chairman of the Mount Kisco Conservation Advisory Council, outlined a list of requested environmental protections that the Planning Board should consider, including accounting for every tree that is removed with a replacement.
“It didn’t seem like all of the trees that are being cut down are being replaced or even at least a quantity of them,” Rhodes said. “We would like the board to make sure that every tree that is being removed be planted.”
He also appealed to the board to have the applicant install pollinator-friendly plantings within the project’s fence to be maintained at two acres; reduce the impact on viewsheds, wetlands and wetland soils in the area; and reduce the impact on wildlife habitats and corridors.
A full review under the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) should also be called for by the board.
Mark Farrell, a member of the Board of Directors at Oakwood Cemetery, said there is a need for solar panels at the cemetery.
“We need to generate revenue at the cemetery. This seems to me and the board as a relatively responsible way for us to utilize our land,” Farrell said.
The company is seeking site plan, special use permit and wetland permit approvals from the board. In November, the Village Board approved legislation to regulate solar arrays for roof-mounted systems and larger ground-mounted systems.
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