Mt. Kisco residents express mixed sentiments on eminent domain

Residents of Mount Kisco were split last week over whether the village should use eminent domain to acquire a 25-acre parcel as opponents criticized authorities for approving the cell tower move from that site to Leonard Park.

About 10 residents spoke at the resumed public hearing on March 21 regarding the potential purchase of land at 180 S. Bedford Rd., where an in-ground solar panel is still offered. Two weeks earlier, the village council had agreed in a contentious 4-1 vote to move Homeland Towers’ proposed tower to a little-used area of ​​the park. Homeland Towers has not appeared before the city’s planning board regarding its proposal in over a year.

The village is considering this site or municipal property on Kisco Mountain to replace the approximately quarter acre needed to site the cell tower in Leonard Park.

Several of those who opposed the initiation of eminent domain proceedings reminded the board of what they described as an ill-advised decision earlier this month and implored officials not to make their mistake worse. by undertaking an expensive procedure for the land at South Bedford Road.

Resident Robert D’Agostino urged his fellow citizens to pressure the council not to make an excessively expensive purchase.

“Wake up to Mount Kisco, tell the village council to stop this process immediately,” D’Agostino said. “Do not allow the village council to use this seemingly costly process to get rid of the proposed industrial destruction of Leonard Park.”

The 25-acre property was purchased by an entity called Skull Island Partners more than eight years ago for $1.5 million, a price that has almost certainly gone up. Mayor Gina Picinich said Mount Kisco has about $1.3 million in its open space fund, but it’s unclear what the price tag would be.

Former Mayor Michael Cindrich said while in office he tried unsuccessfully to have the 25 acres purchased by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. His administration also sought to purchase the property using open space funds for active recreation, such as Little League grounds, but the town of Bedford did not agree to access Sarles Street.

Cindrich commended the previous council for rezoning the land for solar use, a laudable step given the need to switch to renewable energy.

“I think we need to have a shared minds, a shared knowledge, a history of ownership,” Cindrich said. “I think we need to do more than we do before we go down the path to eminent domain.”

Conservation Council Chairman John Rhodes said that while acquiring the land would be expensive, there are grants that could be sought as well as residents with resources who would be willing to help bridge the gap between what which is in the open space fund and whatever the purchase price might be.

“In my opinion, in a city where we have enormous development pressure, where we have three or four times the developed space of any city around here, we have to take every chance we have to preserve the open space that we have for the people in the city and we have to spend that money that we have saved,” Rhodes said.

Resident Ralph Vigliotti, another proponent of preserving the property, said the state Department of Environmental Conservation also has money that can be sought to preserve open spaces and that the village should seek these funds aggressively.

With the land adjacent to the March Sanctuary and the possibility of the 25 acres being used as part of a trail system, the village should seriously consider making the purchase, he said.

“It’s an opportunity, and luckily you have the opportunity to make decisions that could be a plus for the village,” Vigliotti said.

Picinich said the issue before the village council regarding eminent domain relates to the purchase of the land for the public good, which is unrelated to zoning issues.

“I, for one, very strongly support the overall decision we made when implementing solar zoning,” Picinich said.

After the formal hearing was adjourned until the April 4 board meeting, several opponents of the purchase and relocation of the cell tower returned to speak during public comments, accusing the board of administration to conceal its intentions to use the park for the Leonard Park Cell Tower and Recreation Committees.

Kim Terlizzi, a member of the recreation committee, said that given how slowly the government usually operates, it seemed strange to him that the tower move had been carried out so quickly. She said there should have been at least a formal public hearing.

“We were really in the dark until just over a month ago, and you were only telling one (committee) member who was told not to tell any of us what which was going to approve (the move) a few weeks later. “, said Terlizzi.

Picinich reiterated that his reason for supporting the park is because it would be farther from the nearest house. It is estimated that the closest house to the tower in the park would be around 1,000ft, compared to around 200ft on South Bedford Road.

Administrator Karine Patino added that the board made the best decision possible in a bad situation. The difference from three years ago is that submitting a formal request requires the village to make a decision within a time frame set by the federal government.

“At the end of the day, you have to balance what you’re working with and sometimes it doesn’t feel right, but there’s a method of why we got here, and I think the revenue goes straight into the park is something that, in the worst of situations, will always be a benefit to our community,” Patino said.

Officials said that by using the park, the village would receive the greatest service improvement over neighboring municipalities as well as the lease money, which will be used for the park.