The city of Utica's planning board has voted to designate itself as the lead agent for the State Environmental Quality Review process for the downtown hospital project, but that decision didn't come without protest.

The planning board did not allow public comment at Thursday's meeting, but concerned citizens and people representing organizations directly affected by the proposed hospital still spoke out. Others provided letters to the board outlining why they thought the planning board is an improper agency to oversee this process.

"I think the better lead agency would be experts who do this routinely," said Frank Montecalvo, a former DEC administrative law judge. "This is not routine planning board work, not when you're coordinating multiple, multiple agencies."

"In the end, the City of Utica Planning Board has final site plan approval, authority over the entire project, so they will be looking, as part of that process, at the entire project instead of just small elements of the project," said Utica Urban and Economic Development Commissioner Brian Thomas. "That, I think, makes them the most appropriate choice for lead agent."

Concerned citizens asked the board to table the matter and review the letters they received at the meeting. Instead, the planning board passed the resolution 3 to 1.