New York's Appellate Court in Rochester has dismissed an eminent domain lawsuit against Oneida County, thus further opening the door to construction of a new parking garage at the Wynn Hospital in Downtown Utica, which is under construction.

“I am pleased that the Appellate Division dismissed this meritless law suit against Oneida County, and that we can continue to move forward with our parking garage project,” Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said. “This facility is integral to the success of the Wynn Hospital and will provide many other benefits to the ongoing growth of Downtown Utica.”

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The decision dated December 23, 2021, the Fourth Judicial Department of the Appellate Division dismissed the claims by the petitioners in the suit, Brett Truett, Joseph Cerini and 418 Lafayette Street Corporation, claiming the county failed to comply with the requirements of SEQRA in condemning their properties by eminent domain.

The Court further determined that Oneida County had the requisite authority to condemn the petitioners’ properties through eminent domain, that the acquisition of the properties will serve a public use and that the proceeding was constitutionally sound.

“(Oneida County) properly determined that the condemnation of the properties will serve the public use of mitigating parking and traffic congestion, notwithstanding the fact that the need for the parking facility is, at least in part, due to a nearby private construction project, i.e., the construction of a hospital. We have reviewed petitioners’ remaining contentions and conclude they lack merit.” -Decision by Appellate Division, Dec. 23, 2021

The parties opposing the garage through eminent domain still have the option to appeal the decision to New York's Court of Appeals, and one of the petitioners, Brett Truett didn't skip a beat in announcing his intentions.

"We will continue to oppose the unnecessary demolition of historic buildings and taking of personal property. Our stance is explained here. We will surly [sic] look to appeal," said Truett in a message sent to WIBX News on Tuesday afternoon.

However one local attorney with public project and eminent domain experience feels those efforts would most likely be unsuccessful.

Jeff Monaski, WIBX/TSM
Joseph Hobika, Jr.   Photo Credit: Jeff Monaski, WIBX/TSM
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"The AD found in the county's favor," said attorney Joseph Hobika Jr.. "Of course, the Petitioners can request the right to file an appeal to the Court of Appeals, if granted, the Court of Appeals would more than likely reject it out of hand or decline to hear it," he said.

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The Mohawk Valley Health System applauded the decision.

“We are extremely pleased with the outcome," said Darlene Stromstad, FACHE, president/CEO of Mohawk Valley Health System. “The new downtown parking garage is extremely important for The Wynn Hospital project as it will provide convenient and protected parking to our patients and their family and friends. Many of those who use our services are elderly and/or very sick, and we all know the weather in Central New York can be challenging, so providing the most accessible and sheltered parking was imperative," she said. Stromstad added that staff members and physicians – particularly those who work overnight – will be parking in the new garage when constructed.

Click here to read the Appellate Court decision.

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