Was the Eminent Domain Process for the Northland Communications Building in Utica Fair?
The Utica Urban Renewal Agency announced the sale of the former Northland Communications building on Court Street to Michael Pezzolanella. Before the sale, the city took a portion of that building from a man by the name of Vincent Bailey via the Eminent Domain process.
The building itself is complex to begin with as it's broken up into three separate tax parcels. Bailey, who used to own 20% of the building, says prior to construction there were three other buildings that existed in the footprint and they were on three separate lots. When those lots and buildings were acquired by those who built the building, the lot lines were never merged. So, fast-forward to recent years the property ended up with three separate owners. To better explain this, you can see the three parcels in the photo below.
The Northland Communications process, also known as 315-317 Court Street is included within the three circles. The parcel with the location pin USED to belong to Vincent Bailey. He owned 20% of the property. The city's reason for wanting to take the parcel from Bailey was that it would be difficult to market the property with Bailey owning a portion of it.
Bailey says that he originally purchased the property with the intention of buying the rest of the building to develop it himself. The city allegedly had other plans. As a result of the Eminent Domain process, the city was successful in taking the parcel from Bailey, but was he given the full fair market value for that property? Bailey disclosed he received $44,000 for his portion of the building. He owned 20% of the building. The appraiser estimated the value of the two city-owned parcels for a little more than $1,000,000. The appraisal report shows that his portion was valued at $44,000. How is it fair that he only received $44,000? Bailey claims AAA purchase a lot next to their old building on Court Street for $200,000 for use of surface parking. With that comparable and the appraised value of the other portions, Bailey should have been paid approximately $200,000 or close to it.
Bailey claimed, during an appearance on 'First News with Keeler in the Morning,' Pezzolanella originally offered him $150,000 for his portion of the property and said if he didn't take the offer, the city would take it from Bailey and sell it to Pezzolanella. Bailey says, "I called their bluff and they weren't bluffing." There is another issue at play here.
On the Urban Renewal Agency website and Facebook page, they list all of the properties they have for sale. One of those listed was indeed the Northland Communications building at 315-317 Court Street. Each property listed has an asking price and a minimum bid price, as you can see in the photo above. The minimum bid for the Northland Building was $600,000. So, how did it sell for $400,000? Several people are claiming Utica Mayor Rob Palmieri is showing favoritism to certain developers. We have reached out to the mayor's office for comment and are awaiting one.