A special public hearing for the proposed indoor sports complex on town-owned land at Cantine Field will be held on April 4 at 8 p.m. in the senior center.

The purpose of the public hearing, according to town supervisor Kelly Myers is “to determine if the Saugerties community is willing or unwilling to support alienation of a section of the Cantine Field Park - in order to allow a private business to be built and operated there.”

John Barese, owner of the Starway Café on Route 212, wants to construct a $15 million indoor sports complex on about seven acres of Saugerties-owned land, which he’d like to lease tax-free in exchange for an in-kind donation of an adjacent parcel.

Barese said he believes the plan wouldn’t be subject to the Planning Board review process because it would be public land. Town officials believe otherwise.

Myers said town attorney John Greco advised that Barese will have to go through the process. “There is no mechanism to negate or avoid this,” she said.

The process of alienation, which allows a private entity to build on public land, also requires that the private entity deed to the public land that is of equal size.

One of the questions that many residents have raised is if Barese must buy land to exchange with the town, why isn’t he building on that site?

Barese was at a convention in New Jersey and unavailable for comment. However, as his proposal envisions him not paying taxes on the leased land, it’s reasonable to assume that’s why. If the project were built on private land, the taxes would be significant.

If he were to build on property that he owns, he would have to pay property taxes.

Plans for the complex call for the construction of indoor playing fields, swimming pool, basketball and tennis courts as well as a restaurant.

Barese has said he will not use any of his own money for the project but would use that of an as yet unidentified investor.

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