UTICA, N.Y. – The lawsuit filed against the City of Utica Planning Board and Mohawk Valley Health System to stop the construction of the new downtown hospital was dismissed in State Supreme Court on Thursday, Oct. 22.
The suit was filed in Albany County by the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica and the #nohospitaldowntown group in May of 2019. The lawsuit calls into question the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) of the property, claiming the proper procedures were not followed, and the groups were not provided an opportunity to comment on the review.
In April of 2020, the case was moved to Oneida County Supreme Court, and oral arguments were heard by Judge Bernadette Romano-Clark.
According to court documents, the judge found that the petitioners waited too long in the development process to take legal action.
The ruling reads, in part:
“This Court opines that, Petitioners failure to seek a preliminary injunction or a stay to either prevent construction on the Project from commencing or continuing, once the Planning Board issued Final Site Plan Approval was fatal to their case.”
The groups who filed the suit say they couldn’t take action sooner due to lack of funds, but the judge said the costs could have been avoided if the groups had they filed the lawsuit earlier.
“Importantly, Petitioners could have avoided the costs associated with obtaining a preliminary injunction had they challenged the Final Site Plan Approval in a timely manner. Although, Petitioners repeatedly criticized the Respondents ‘bad faith motives’ and alleged continued delays ‘using every trick in the book,’ these claims are not substantiated in this Record.”
The court documents explain further:
“In the final analysis, what Petitioners have seemingly failed to come to grips with is the fact, that, by failing to seek injunctive relief or a stay from Supreme Court, they themselves are complicit in this Project having reached its present advanced stage…Thus, this Court finds that Petitioners failed to make sufficient efforts to safeguard their rights and, as a result, this controversy has been rendered moot and must be and is dismissed.”
President at CEO of MVHS, Darlene Stromstad, released the following statement regarding the decision:
"We are grateful to have this unnecessary and costly distraction behind us. Thank you to our legal counsel at Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC, and to Bob Scholefield of the MVHS staff for staying on top of all the details of this case.
"While we are not surprised based on the effort and detail put into the filing of SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act), we are glad to have this case over and done! From the beginning – almost 18 months ago – we never let the petitioners slow down the progress on the community's new medical center.”