As we head into the final days of the year, we couldn’t resist another eminent domain post. It is our passion and we hope that you find the posts as interesting as we do. Today we are writing about an eminent domain public hearing held in Oneida county, related to the downtown Utica hospital project where a three-level parking garage is slated to be built. The new garage structure is intended to be a part of the Mohawk Valley Health System (“MVHS”) hospital building, and to provide parking to those visiting the Adirondack Bank Center and the city court.
Four downtown Utica property owners are fighting back. The owners say that they are defending their assets; and that they have not yet reached a sales agreement with the health system for the to-be-built garage.
Since most of the land required for this project has already been acquired, Oneida County is considering eminent domain as a way to acquire the holdout properties.
Thanks to modern technology, the Oneida County Department of Law held a virtual public hearing to give property owners and local officials an opportunity to publicly comment and make their statements to the County Board of Legislatures.
At that hearing, business owners and local government officials spoke up to state that they do not believe this garage is needed. “It's not at all obvious that it's necessary and I think using eminent domain to seize private property from its citizens for a project that has not been shown to the public to be necessary…[is] extremely inappropriate” said Celeste Friend, Utica Common Councilperson 3rd District.
“Eminent domain should not be used in this case. Private public development took place after the fact eminent domain is being proposed to take private property from individuals who have a right to ownership. In this case the proposed project will not market and if wanted maybe to place in other reasonable locations where other parking garages exist,” said Timothy Julian, Oneida County Board of Legislatures reading a statement from Utica Common Council President, Michael Galime who could not attend Wednesday night’s meeting.
Katie Aiello, owner of Character Coffee says, “It appears that these parking spots for service parking is already sufficient. Eminent domain is theft.”
Clearly, this hospital project is not very popular with the local community. In 2019, the #nohospitaldowntown group and the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica filed a lawsuit against the city and MVHS to stop construction of the new hospital. That lawsuit was dismissed by the New York State Supreme Court. According to health officials, the construction of the MVHS hospital is expected to be completed by May of 2023. As for the construction of the garage, well that remains to be seen.
As always, we will keep you posted as to any new eminent domain news that comes along. In the meantime, have a safe and Happy Holiday Season and a Happy and Healthy New Year!