UTICA, N.Y.-- In a 3-1 vote, Utica's planning board voted to accept the responsibility of acting as the lead agency for the downtown hospital State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA process.
The lead agency in a SEQRA process must determine the scope of the environmental impact study and come to a final decision on whether or not a project would irreparably harm a piece of land.
More than 20 agencies were capable of becoming the lead agency on the hospital project SEQRA.
At Wednesday's meeting, the planning board read a letter from the Oneida County Local Development Corps. The letter voiced a recommendation that the city's planning board, rather than the Oneida County Local Development Corps, be named lead agency.
"There were a number of potential involved agencies that were identified that have some role in the project, either through funding or approval," Brian Thomas, Utica's commissioner of Urban & Economic Development, said. "Most of those were just elements of the overall project. In the end, the city of Utica planning board has final site plan approval, authority over the entire project, so they will be looking as part of that process at the entire project, instead of just small elements of the project."
Members of the No Hospital Downtown group were present at the meeting, and submitted letters of objection to the board.
A lawyer and former DEC judge also objected to the planning board's decision to become lead agency. Frank Montecalvo said the city's planning board violated the first rule of SEQRA by not considering other locations for the hospital. He also claimed the board regularly conferences on hospital planning with MVHS representatives, making them a biased entity.
"You have our local people, our local professions already doing design work with the hospital," Montecalvo said. "They're consulting on a regular basis. Their viewpoint of the subject is going to be biased."
The SEQRA process is expected to take six months to a year to complete.
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