Oneida County is moving forward with the eminent domain procedure to secure land needed for a parking garage for Wynn Hospital in downtown Utica.
On Dec. 23, the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court, Fourth Judicial Department dismissed a lawsuit brought by Brett Truett, Joseph Cerino and the 418 Lafayette St. Corp. challenging the use of eminent domain in the situation.
On Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Bernadette T. Clark ruled against the group’s filing of a stay in eminent domain until the case is possibly heard on appeal, Oneida County Attorney Peter Rayhill said.
Clark’s decision gives the county permission to move ahead with eminent domain, though Rayhill said the county will pause the procedure if an appeal is heard.
“We were gratified with the judge’s decision,” Rayhill said.
Plans are for the parking garage to be located at Oriskany, Lafayette and Cornelia streets. Clark’s decision allows the county to acquire the three remaining properties in the footprint it has not yet acquired.
The county has recently reached an agreement with a fourth owner, 525-527 Oriskany St. LLC.
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Officials with Mohawk Valley Health System said they are happy with Clark’s decision and looking forward to the project moving forward.
“This has been a long process,” said Darlene Stromstad, FACHE, MVHS president/CEO in a statement, “and I am tremendously grateful to Oneida County for continuing to move forward with eminent domain and ultimately, construction of the parking garage.”
Truett, speaking on behalf of the No Hospital Downtown group, decried Clark’s decision, and said he did not feel the judge should have ruled on the matter.
“Soon Utica’s only acute care hospital will be subject to evacuation due to its close proximity to the CSX train tracks,” Truett said. “The Wynn’s suburban site plan is a grotesque, acreage-eating design. As a result, a neighborhood was lost, many Utica-area residents have soured on our leaders and MVHS. There was room for a better hospital neighborhood.”
What’s next in Wynn Hospital parking garage plan?
Clark’s decision will allow the county to file an acquisition map, which will provide the county ownership of the properties, without deeds.
In filing the map, Rayhill said the county will write up a signed order, attach the transcript from the recent court ruling and order and submit it to the plaintiffs and the judge, a process he called “reasonably straightforward” and expects will take about a week.
The county will then start scheduling investigations of the properties, looking for nuisances such as asbestos. Demolition of the properties will follow, and construction of the parking garage would begin soon after the county awards the contract.
Rayhill said the county is expecting to open requests for proposals for construction of the parking garage April 14.
Ed Harris is the Oneida County reporter for the Observer-Dispatch. Email Ed Harris at [email protected]