UTICA – The City of Utica and Oneida County will both take part in the eminent domain process for properties located within the new downtown hospital footprint whose owners refuse to sell, according to a joint release sent by Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri and Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente on Wednesday evening.
If needed, the City of Utica will use eminent domain to acquire properties within the hospital footprint through its Urban Renewal Agency, and Oneida County will use eminent domain to acquire properties within the footprint for the hospital’s parking garage.
There are 72 properties that lie within the footprint for the new hospital and parking garage, which are represented by 35 different property owners. According to Mohawk Valley Health System officials, three property owners refuse to sell, and five property owners have received purchase offers but aren’t in active discussion with MVHS or Bond, Schoeneck & King, the law firm handling the property acquisition process.
“From the very beginning of this project, we have believed in the potential to completely reinvigorate a major portion of the City’s downtown,” Palmieri said in the news release. “After careful and deliberate discussions with the County Executive, we have come to the decision that it is in the best interest of the City, region and healthcare for future generations, to advance eminent domain jointly with the County and the Utica Urban Renewal Agency, only where necessary. A consensus was reached between County and City officials, after extensive research and deliberations. Throughout the entire planning process, I have advocated strongly for the City’s best interests and that of its taxpayers, and we will continue to assist those impacted by this project within the City’s fiscal constraints.”
Scott Perra, president and CEO of MVHS, said this decision is “significant and important,” and it will allow the hospital project to move forward.
“MVHS will continue to reach out and work with all property owners to reach an agreement," Perra said. “It is our desire to avoid the use of eminent domain if possible.”
"I'll basically put everything I have into it," Joseph Cerini, owner of Citation Services on Lafayette Street said. "What we're being offered, money-wise, you can't rebuild a business that has 18,000 square feet."
"The mayor specifically said the city of Utica will not carry out eminent domain, we will not stop it, but we will not be part of the action," Shawn Corrigan, VP of Purchasing at Wilcor International said. "So that was a blatant lie."
Both Corrigan and Cerini say they will fight the city in eminent domain. No Hospital Downtown Co-Founder Brett Truett released a statement, saying he would be willing to help fund these legal battles.
"Anybody seeking to fight eminent domain will find a true friend and funding from me to fight the politicians on this disastrous hospital concept until the bitter end," Truett said. "Actually this official threat of eminent domain is very good news, as finally this 3-year old debacle as to who will bring eminent domain has been announced. This now becomes a national question regarding the right of government to take private property for private use."
"We shouldn't have to be taking the time out of our business to do this," Corrigan said. "We're bringing money into the area every day."