MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. — People who camp, party or litter in Mount Kisco’s conservation areas may no longer be let off the hook.
Mayor Michael Cindrich has suggested implementing new regulations requiring that anyone caught violating conservation area restrictions do community service or face some level of police action.
"I think we've been extremely tolerant of the encampments," Cindrich said at Monday's trustees meeting.
The village wastes taxpayer money every time its resources and manpower are used to clean up after people who construct encampments or otherwise use an area in violation of regulations, he said.
According to the village code, activities that are not permitted in conservation areas include disturbing land, trees, vegetation, property or wildlife, starting fires, littering, playing sports, camping or picnicking, and bringing in pets or vehicles.
"If somebody is violating the law, as opposed to saying 'Don't do it anymore,' let's do what parents do with children," Cindrich suggested. "There should be some punitive damages, and maybe we can get some cleanup in and around the village."
Cindrich also said those who use the woods to sleep could instead be served by the village’s Emergency Shelter Partnership, a nonprofit coalition of religious organizations that provides emergency housing for the homeless on a rotating basis during the year’s coldest months.
Some of those using the conservation areas for shelter are Latino immigrants who work as day laborers. During the winter months, when landscaping work is scarce, it can become difficult to afford rent, so some resort to sleeping in parks and conservation areas.
Mel Berger, chairman of the Mount Kisco Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Council, and the Rev. Paul Alcorn of the Bedford Presbyterian Church, developed the Emergency Shelter Partnership in 2005 to provide a safe place to sleep for those who need it.
At the moment, the Emergency Shelter Partnership is serving seven and 10 people a night, Cindrich said. In a typical year, the 15 churches or synagogues that have offered to host the shelter serve 10 to 30 people a night from November to March.
Cindrich said that to enforce the new strictures the trustees may have to designate certain other wooded areas as conservation areas so they fit under the village's legal definition.
A number of parcels on the village's municipal tax map have been identified as conservation areas. The board of trustees has the authority to add new parcels to the map from time to time.
The term "conservation area" includes the land and any body of water located within the area, according to the village code. Currently, there are eight separate conservation areas in the village.