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Developer threatens to seek 'legal remedy' in Wynn Hospital eminent domain battle – Utica Observer Dispatch

Syracuse-based Bowers Development said it was left with “no choice” but to proceed with every legal remedy available after the Oneida County Industrial Development Agency unanimously voted last week to begin taking the next steps in acquiring the 411 Columbia St. Parcel in Utica via eminent domain on behalf of the Mohawk Valley Health System. 
OCIDA voted Aug. 20, 2021, to have staff look into the legal right to use eminent domain to acquire the property, which is currently home to J.P. O’Brien Plumbing and Heating and is within the footprint of Wynn Hospital in downtown Utica. 
On Friday, Jan. 21, OCIDA voted to schedule a public hearing on the use of eminent domain on the parcel, which is the next step required in the process.   
However, Bowers Development already has a signed purchase agreement for the property, city officials said. 
Bowers said it met with OCIDA officials at a recent public meeting, where its attorney provided them with notice that the approval of benefits on property they do not own or control is not legal. Despite this, OCIDA began taking steps toward eminent domain, Bowers said. 
“These actions are an incredible abuse of power,” Bowers said in a statement. “Through this process, the Oneida County taxpayers will be paying for all of the legal work, the costs to take the property, and the resulting damages (which will ultimately be in the millions).” 
OCIDA officials said the parcel was “critical” for Wynn Hospital during brief comments on the matter at a meeting last week.   
OCIDA has declined comment on the matter due to possible litigation. 
Hospital officials have said the Columbia Street property is imperative to the plans for a Medical Office Building (MOB) that have been in the works for years.     
Darlene Stromstad, MVHS president and CEO said the hospital system, was extremely grateful to OCIDA and the Central Utica Building (CUB) – a group of local physicians who came together to develop the MOB – for moving ahead with the eminent domain proposal, in a statement on the eminent domain process last week. 
“The development of a MOB/ASC adjacent to The Wynn Hospital is crucial to the overall project because the services housed in this building complement the work being done in the hospital and work collaboratively to support each other,” Stromstad said in the statement. “The MOB/ASC is planned to house multiple physician practices, and MVHS will lease space for an ambulatory surgery center, outpatient radiology and a laboratory patient service center.” 
Bowers said eminent domain is being pursued by OCIDA and the county executive to appease their “friends” at MVHS and Central Utica Building, LLC. 
It is worth noting that OCIDA — which is not affiliated with the county or Utica — is the one possibly pursuing the use of eminent domain. Also, OCIDA can only use eminent domain for profit, not for nonprofits.    
“Due to the incompetence and arrogance of the OCIDA, we have no choice but to proceed with every legal remedy available to us regarding this matter,” Bowers said. 
Ed Harris is the Oneida County reporter for the Observer-Dispatch. Email Ed Harris at EHarris1@gannett.com.

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