The Oneida County Industrial Development Agency (OCIDA) voted unanimously Thursday morning at a special meeting to move forward with the eminent domain procedure to secure parcel 411 Columbia St. in Utica on behalf of the Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS).
Paul Goldman, a lawyer present at the meeting who guided OCIDA through the details of the process, stressed that Thursday’s vote did not guarantee taking the property. Rather, it explained what OCIDA needed to do to start the process.
David Grow, president of OCIDA, and Michael Fitzgerald, vice president, were the only two board members to speak on the issue before the vote.
The board had about an hour of executive meeting before the vote.
“We need to move forward so the hospital is not delayed,” Grow said moments before the unanimous vote.
Fitzgerald argued that those who objected to the use of eminent domain on the Columbia Street parcel did so because of Wynn Hospital’s location in downtown Utica.
“That argument is over,” Fitzgerald said, noting that the hospital is currently under construction.
How we got here
OCIDA voted August 20, 2021 for staff to consider the legal right to use eminent domain to acquire the property, which is currently home to JP O’Brien Plumbing and Heating and sits within the footprint of Wynn Hospital in downtown Utica.
A public hearing on the proposal was held on February 24. Only a handful of people spoke, with an almost even split for and against the proposal.
The hearing was open for comments until March 30.
Syracuse-based Bowers Development has signed a purchase agreement for the Columbia Street property, city officials said.
In the past, Bowers has said he might seek legal redress if OCIDA tries to smuggle the package through eminent domain.
At the February hearing, a lawyer for Bowers said OCIDA was seeking to take ownership from a private entity and give it to another private entity. The act would be outrageous and illegal, argued the lawyer.
“We are extremely disappointed, but not surprised by this morning’s decision,” said Bryan Bowers of Bowers Development.
“Unfortunately, the County Executive and the Oneida County Industrial Development Agency have their own agenda, not the interests of the community as a whole, as their primary concern. Their disregard for the law and the taxpayers of the Oneida County to enrich ten wealthy cardiologists (members of CNY Cardiology) is downright appalling. Unfortunately, the result of these illegal actions will be a lengthy and costly legal process. While we hoped to avoid litigation, we have no no choice but to defend our rights in court and we are confident that we Despite OCIDA’s misguided and unlawful actions, Bowers Development remains unfazed in its vision for a medical office building at 411 Columbia Street that will ultimately expand the scope and availability of quality services for the people of this community, including patients, their families, visitors and residents, while expanding city and county tax base. »
It should be noted that OCIDA – which is not affiliated with the county or Utica – is the one possibly pursuing the use of eminent domain, not Picente. OCIDA may only use eminent domain for profit, not non-profit.
Hospital officials have consistently said Columbia Street ownership is imperative to plans for a medical office building (MOB) that have been in the works for years.
Darlene Stromstad, president and CEO of MVHS, said the hospital system is extremely grateful to OCIDA and the Central Utica Building (CUB) – a group of local physicians who came together to develop the MOB – for advanced with the eminent domain proposal, in a statement on the eminent domain process earlier this year.
Plans for the hospital site include the property and other buildings in the space, which were chosen because they are across from Wynn Hospital and there are plenty of parking spots, officials said. responsible.
Hospital officials said the MOB is expected to house medical offices, an outpatient surgery center, outpatient radiology and a laboratory patient service center.
At the February hearing, CUB members said the proposed MOB was already 90% filled with potential tenants.
Stromstad said Thursday that the hospital system was happy with OCIDA’s decision.
“The acquisition of this property is critical to the construction of the Central Utica Building (CUB) Medical Office/Ambulatory Surgical Center (MOB/ASC) building,” she said in a statement. “…The development of an MOB/ASC adjacent to Wynn Hospital is crucial to the entire project as the services housed in this building complement the work being done at the hospital and work collaboratively to support each other. The MOB/ASC is planned to house several medical offices, and MVHS will lease space for an outpatient surgery center, outpatient radiology, and laboratory patient service center.
Thursday’s vote by OCIDA kicks things off.
Like Oneida County’s use of eminent domain to acquire properties for parking for Wynn Hospital, the process is time-consuming and could involve a court battle.
Now that OCIDA has accepted the decision and findings regarding the Columbia Street property, the immediate next step is to publish the synopsis twice in the Observer-Dispatch, considered the local newspaper, and send it to the parties. concerned.
Ed Harris is the Oneida County reporter for the Observer-Dispatch. Email Ed Harris at [email protected].