Mount Kisco Planning Council: positive statement justified for solar field

The Mount Kisco planning board announced last week that it would seek further environmental review of a proposed solar panel due to potential cumulative impacts with a cell tower on the same site.

The five council members indicated that a positive declaration under the Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) is likely warranted for aesthetic reasons, impact on plants and wildlife and community issues.

The planning board’s comments came despite a village council vote last month to move Homeland Towers’ proposed cell tower from the same 25-acre parcel at 180 S. Bedford Rd. to Leonard Park.

No vote on the decision was taken last week until Village Attorney Whitney Singleton can prepare a document that the board will formally accept and give plaintiff SCS Sarles Street LLC the opportunity to come back with new material. new news.

William Null, the lawyer for SCS Sarles, had asked the council to suspend a vote for 30 to 60 days.

Despite action by the village council on March 21, there is no guarantee that the replacement of the park and subsequent authorization by the state legislature will occur, council chairman Michael Bonforte said.

Bonforte said he had to look at the solar farm application in the context of considering the two applications that are currently before the board, not what might happen. Homeland Towers’ application was not withdrawn.

“If the Leonard Park site comes to fruition, it may take a year or more, I don’t know,” Bonforte said. “We don’t even think about that. I can see a different scenario developing. But here and now, as a board member, I see this on a cumulative basis, which is a significant negative impact.

At a board meeting last month, the village environmental consultant revised his findings in three key areas, ranging from no or low impact to moderate to significant impact on the effect of the proposed solar farm on plants and animals, aesthetics and community character.

Other board members struggled with the decision but came to the same conclusion. Board member Michael McGuirk said a positive declaration is not a refusal, but triggers further scrutiny and the requirements for an environmental impact statement. McGuirk added that his reading of the language under SEQRA does not compel the board to believe that there will be significant negative environmental impacts, just for its potential. He said more than 500 trees would be felled.

“For me, it’s not just the visual and aesthetic impacts that are important,” he said. “It’s the solar application itself, it’s the aesthetics and the removal of habitats, it’s the steep slopes.”

Another council member, William Polese, said the decision was difficult, but he needed to take a more conservation-focused approach and agree to the applicant completing the longer environmental review.

Ahead of comments from board members, Null explained why a negative statement was warranted. Null said that for more than a year, his client and his environmental consultants responded to council inquiries by providing so much information that there would be nothing new learned from a positive statement.

“So a positive statement that would put us on 12 months or longer, potentially, and cost significantly hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce no new information different from what you have today, seems unnecessary to me,” said Null. . “But more importantly, the reason, apparently for the request for more information, is based more on the Homeland Towers app than ours.”

Homeland Towers has not appeared before the board for over a year, first because it was in arrears on its escrow account. He was then looking for another suitable site that would fill the cellular coverage gap along the Route 172 corridor.

Null argued that aesthetics, for example, were much more important with a 140-foot cell tower than with solar panels that would reach a maximum height of seven and a half feet.

However, Bonforte pointed out that the parcel is adjacent to the Marsh Sanctuary, which is a wooded area and that there is community value associated with the sanctuary, including its proximity to a historic amphitheater and walking paths that are part of the character of the area. .

“The cell tower has more (impact) for me, but it’s not like the solar field is perfect, but again, we’re evaluating on a cumulative basis,” Bonforte said.

The village council is set to resume its hearing Monday night on whether to begin eminent domain proceedings to acquire 180 S. Bedford Rd. to replace the lost park at Leonard Park after its vote on moving the cell tower.

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