Arena proposal must clear legal hurdles

Before John Barese’s dream of building a $15 million indoor sports complex on town-owned land near Cantine Field can happen, there will be a number of legal hurdles he’ll need to overcome — any one of which could quickly derail the project.

There are also a number of reservations expressed by Supervisor Kelly Myers and fellow Town Board members that need to be addressed as well.

Speaking outside the March 7 Town Board meeting, Barese ran down the list of conditions that need to be met:


• Town Board approval. The board will need to set a public hearing and consider comments before voting to approve or deny the project. The project would be built on town-owned land off Canoe Hill Road that is currently being used to store DPW equipment. The Town Board has yet to set a public hearing date.

• The state Legislature needs to adopt a law permitting the town and developer to enter into this public/private venture.

• Gov. Andrew Cuomo would need to sign the legislation.

• Approval from the state Parks and Recreation Department is also needed.

• Barese would need to donate an equal amount of land. (He plans on purchasing some adjacent land but has not done so yet.) This process required by the state is called Alienation, Barese said.

Barese said that he would not be using any of his own money toward this project, which has been “a dream of mine for the last 10 years.” For the last three years, he has had a team of 10 members working on putting plans together.

The entire project, including a $1 million road running from North Street to the field, would, Barese said, be paid for by one individual, whom he declined to name. He said the individual is a local person who at this time wanted to remain anonymous. The identity of that person would be revealed should the project receive approval.

The lack of an identity for this person is one of a number of items that Myers has on a checklist that she wants answers to before she will agree to hold a public hearing.

She also wants the School Board to review the project, since Barese said the school would be able to hold sporting activities free of charge at the venue. Barese spoke before that board Tuesday, March 13.


No planning board approval?

Barese believes that his project will not need any town Planning Board approvals because the project would be located on public land. So far, town officials have not weighed in on Barese’s interpretation of the law.

Myers was taken aback when told. “How can he do that?” she asked.

Myers said if the Town Board signed on for its portion of the deal, she’d want to see the Planning Board do a thorough review of the plans as well.

“There are many questions that need to be answered about this project,” Myers said.

“Give us a chance: that’s all we’re asking,” Barese said. “Let the citizens hear us.”


Project details

Plans for the $15 million arena include an indoor turf field, track lanes, an Olympic-size swimming pool and four basketball courts, which could also be used for volleyball and other sports. Most of the clientele would be students, who would be able to use the facility for free during school hours and for special events. According to Barese’s proposal, the facility would be privately owned and operated, and the town would lease seven acres of land for $1 a year for 99 years. He’s proposing a PILOT agreement in which he’d donate five acres of adjacent land to the town in exchange for operating tax-free throughout the lease. He’d also improve the access road ($1 million estimated cost) and turn over the proceeds from parking at special events to the town ($3-10 per vehicle).