Businessman John Barese is anxious to get started on a $15 million indoor sports arena at Cantine Field, but he says the town is dragging its feet on a simple legal document he needs to get started. He says the whole plan will suffer delays because of it.
“This is exactly where I didn’t want to be,” said Barese, who says he hasn’t heard a peep out of the town since it agreed to draft a memorandum of understanding one month before, spelling out what he and the town would do during the opening stages of Barese’s proposed public/private partnership.
The board has expressed reservations about the plan and has resisted demands to expedite the process. Board members say the proposal could expose the town to a lot of risk.
“This is a non-permitted use on town property, and not paying taxes,” said Supervisor Myers. “This requires careful review.”
Barese, who owns the Starway Cafe and Pizza Star on Route 212, is asking the town to lease him 7.5 acres of Cantine Field tax-free for 99 years at $1 per year. In exchange, Barese would trade a comparable size property across the street, which he has promised he’ll purchase if the town agrees to the plan. (In addition, the arena would be open to high school students during school hours and for sports functions, and Barese said the arena would generate over $65,000 per year in revenue for the town, through parking fees.)
Board members are concerned they’d be stuck with the building if the business fails. They also want to know who’s funding the project — so far Barese hasn’t said.
Barese wanted the board to ink the memorandum of understanding before the State Senate takes its summer recess next month. The land swap would require the approval of the senate, the state’s parks and recreation department and the governor. Barese is mad because at this point they have no chance of making that deadline.
The proposed arena would be 200,000 square feet with a track, basketball courts, sports fields, restaurant, and swimming pool.
According to Myers, the memorandum of understanding would include the requirement that Barese fund a $15,000 feasibility study on the deal. The study would provide a legally sound case for why the project is feasible and should be built on public land.
Barese also came to Wednesday’s meeting bearing a petition with 495 signatures, of which 392 are from residents of the town and village, he said, and 68 signatures from town and village businesses.
A Facebook page will soon be created by Barese to keep those interested in the project informed as to what’s going on.
“People are coming to me, asking what’s going on and I have no information,” Barese said.
He’s also concerned by what he says is a sudden interest by other buyers in the adjacent land he plans to purchase and trade with the town.
“The realtor said there is a big push to buy this property,” Barese told the board. He said that fortunately he has binders on the property that will be in place for a few more months.