Residents opposed to acquiring a 25-acre property through eminent domain persuaded Mount Kisco Village Council last week to resume the public hearing this Saturday and include a question and answer session -answers regarding the relocation of the cell tower to Leonard Park.
Critics and supporters returned to the village board meeting on April 18 in hopes of swaying officials over the potential launch of an eminent domain proceeding to purchase the site of a solar farm and of a proposed cell tower at 180 S. Bedford Rd.
The board, which came up with the idea of wrapping up the formal eminent domain hearing last week, has decided to hold at least one more session this Saturday at the Mount Kisco Library at 3:30 p.m. The forum will also to matters related to council’s Mar 7 votes that allowed the cell tower to be moved from the South Bedford Road site to a rear part of the park provided it received state-level approvals.
Authorities are considering buying the 25 acres on South Bedford Road where twin applications are being considered by the Planning Board. The purchase would satisfy replacement requirements for the loss of approximately 11,000 square feet of land in Leonard Park.
Resident Robert Dagostino, who opposes both eminent domain and the park’s cellphone tower, has pushed for additional public forums on both issues, since the March 7 council vote to move the tower . He and others have asked the board to engage with the community on the two difficult topics in sessions outside of formal bi-monthly meetings.
Dagostino said that among the key questions that need to be answered regarding the park tower is how the village intends to power the site, where it will store a diesel fuel tanker from 500 gallons on the site, how it plans to navigate steep slopes and for the village to identify the exact location of the tower.
“I think a decision of this magnitude that will affect thousands and thousands of children for future generations needs to be seriously considered,” Dagostino said. “Although we have already voted on the cell tower in the park, it is not, as you have already told me, not finished. I have asked you to step on the brakes, and I am seriously asking you to step on the brakes now and to reconsider and step on the brakes, wait until we have several public hearings involving all of the residents of our community.
Council agreed to hold a special meeting on Saturday at the library. Village administrator Karen Schleimer said she has heard from many residents who are unable to attend regular board meetings on weekdays and would like a weekend afternoon.
“My feeling is that I don’t see the harm and I think there’s a big benefit in letting people voice their concerns, voice their opinions and for us to hear what people have to say,” said Schleimer.
During last week’s hearing, former village mayor Michael Cindrich suggested council was considering eminent domain for the South Bedford Road plot for the wrong reasons. It appears to be based on outcry from nearby residents and representatives of the adjacent Swamp Sanctuary who have come out openly against a possible cellphone tower and solar farm rather than defined public use, he said.
“I don’t consider it public use,” Cindrich said of the potential acquisition. “I see this as land grabbing to prevent development that no one wants. I must preface this: I don’t want it either.
Cindrich later added that he might be able to support eminent domain if the village used the land for ball diamonds or other active recreational purposes.
However, the public interest would be “an incredible addition” to the park’s inventory and the village’s open space, said Conservation Advisory Council Chairman John Rhodes. He said there was also space on the 25-acre site for the village to create a parking area and there were trails nearby.
“If you look at it in a balanced way, you can start to see that there are pros and cons, but you have to look at it honestly and directly and not alter the facts based on your very justified emotional reaction to the situation with the cell tower,” Rhodes said.
Resident Rex Pietrobono, whose home is believed to be less than 300 feet from the cell tower at 180 S. Bedford Rd., said there would be no way to obscure the base of the tower near his home as most people wouldn’t see her in Leonard Park.
It is still unclear how much the village should pay for the 25 acres until there is an appraisal. It was sold to the current owner in 2013 for $1.5 million.