CityPlace Burlington developer Don Sinex is taking a New York couple to federal court for backing out of a contract to purchase his Rutland estate for $1.3 million.
According to court documents, Jeanne and Steven Quagliano signed a contract to buy Sinex’s five-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom property last June, and paid a $100,000 deposit to be held in escrow.
Two months later, however, the Quaglianos terminated the deal over concerns that Sinex, who lives in Florida, had directed people to remove items from the home that were included in the sale, court documents say. Sinex's lawsuit says that no property is missing.
"I sued the couple to recover damages because they defaulted notwithstanding a binding contract," Sinex wrote in an email to Seven Days. "This is the same action any and all aggrieved Sellers bring against buyers when the buyer defaults."
Sinex is no stranger to litigation. The developer has been sued numerous times over his long-stalled project in downtown Burlington, most recently by the city itself.
The city's lawsuit, filed because Sinex didn’t meet construction deadlines, has since been settled. But two others — one from a group of project opponents, and Sinex’s countersuit against them — are pending in Vermont Superior Court. The CityPlace project is still unbuilt, leaving a hole in the city center now known as “The Pit.”
The setting of Sinex’s latest legal tango is decidedly more glamorous. Situated on 10 acres, his sprawling Rutland estate is comprised of a 4,500-square-foot main home and a 3,500-square-foot “entertainment barn” that doubles as a luxury pool house. The real estate listing describes the property as a “true family compound” with a covered porch, "sun-drenched" living room, private theater and tennis court. Sinex has owned the property for 25 years.
Included in the sale were the major household appliances, a hot tub, pool equipment, air conditioners and various pieces of furniture. Additional furnishings could be purchased for $100,000, the agreement says.
The contract also spells out the items Sinex planned to take with him, such as two wooden tables that he built; porcelain figurines from high-end maker Herend; and a chandelier in the front foyer, among others.
Court documents don't indicate what items Sinex allegedly removed from the home. Gary Kupferer, the Quaglianos' attorney, contacted Sinex's lawyer about the issue on August 12 last year, the original closing date.
"It has come to my clients' attention, based on credible evidence, that your client has removed personal property,” Kupferer wrote in a letter that was included in the court file. “It is my clients’ position that your client is in default [of the contract]."
The Quaglianos asked Sinex to extend the closing date to work out the issue, but his attorney, Timothy Martin, declined.
“There is no issue to resolve. All personal property that is to be included in the sale, remains at the property,” Martin wrote to Kupferer. “Because your clients have not identified any items missing from what they contracted to buy, they have no right to terminate the contract on the basis you cite.”
Sinex filed the lawsuit on January 3 in U.S. District Court. He’s asking the court to award him the Quaglianos’ $100,000 deposit as “liquidated damages” and for attorney fees and costs, plus interest. Reached Tuesday, Steven Quagliano declined to be interviewed based on advice from his attorney.
Meantime, Sinex's home is under contract with a new buyer. The price is listed at nearly $1.6 million.
"It is a superb property and I am selling it," Sinex wrote to Seven Days. "This is not news as it has been for sale for some time now."