Even as the shell of the Wynn Hospital towers over downtown Utica, legal battles continue, in an effort to stop it. Rochester legal firm, the Zoghlin Group, has filed a petition on behalf of Oriskany LLC, the owner of 525-527 Oriskany Street, the lot on which Enterprise Rent-A-Car sits, in the footprint of the hospital parking garage.
"The community has been consistently opposed to this parking garage on these parcels: when the land owners wouldn't sell to MVHS, the County stepped in," says Attorney Bridget O'Toole, of the Zoghlin Group. "Eminent Domain is a drastic step and should only be undertaken in strict accordance with the law."
The petition names Oneida County and its Board of Legislators, claiming the board did not follow the letter of law in some aspects of its effort to condemn properties in the downtown parking garage footprint, whose owners refuse to sell to MVHS. Among the areas the petition calls into question: the State Environmental Quality Review, or, "SEQR" process, and, a public hearing that was held remotely, during which multiple people had difficulty participating.
"The SEQR process involved the parking garage, what was considered part of what was approved, and we are actually bound by those findings and those determinations, so, I think the SEQR issue has been resolved with regard to the eminent doman part," says County Attorney, Peter Rayhill, adding that he doesn't believe there's a legal issue with the remotely-held hearing, either. "And so they've raised that issue and there have been decisions that it's clear you can do that, but I'll be intrigued to see how that plays out and we will comply with whatever the appelate department determines."
The Appelate Division is expected to take up the petition in its October term. Construction of the parking garage has not yet begun.