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Proposed Newport hotel project stalls

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Bill Stenger Bill Stenger

Burlington developer Tony Pomerleau owns the Newport Waterfront Plaza. That's where the Marina Hotel and Convention Center project was slated to be built, but Pomerleau says after four years of not receiving any money from Jay Peak President Bill Stenger, he had to do what was right for his business and end the deal. Stenger disagrees and says that it's still going to happen.

"I bought it in 1972 and it was bankrupt and vacant," said Pomerleau.

Pomerleau has turned around the Newport Waterfront Plaza, but says with its prime location on Lake Memphremagog it's not meant to be a shopping plaza, it should be a hotel. And that's exactly what Jay Peak owner and President Bill Stenger were hoping to do.

"This project in Newport will happen, I obviously have some work to do," said Stenger.

Pomerleau says he agreed to sell the shopping center to Stenger for an undisclosed amount of money four years ago.

As part of the project Stenger planned to demolish the plaza and build the $100 million Marina Hotel and Conference Center. There was just one problem, Pomerleau says Stenger never gave him any money.

"So this time I said this is it, I said no more I can't do it," said Pomerleau.

Pomerleau says the two had agreed on a payment system, a $1 million deposit and several $1 million installments.

"One time he wrote me a handwritten check for $100,000 but he was supposed to give me a million here, a million there. Then he comes with a $100,000 so I tore it up and gave it back to him," said Pomerleau.

Stenger: I gave him a $100,000 deposit

Channel 3 Reporter Gina Bullard: And he ripped it up?

Stenger: He didn't rip it up he put it in his safe.

Stenger visited Pomerleau in Burlington Monday after he read in the Newport Daily Express that the deal was falling through. Pomerleau says he emailed Stenger last week to let him know he was pulling the plug. Stenger left Monday's meeting saying he still has a deal.

"Got some homework to do but we're going to continue to work together," said Stenger

But Pomerleau says even after the meeting he's done waiting. He says Tuesday his current tenants, a restaurant, drugstore and grocery store can start re-signing their leases and some last for at least 10 years.

Bullard: Are you upset the deal fell through?

Pomerleau: Financially no I'll be better off in the lon grun.

Bullard: For Newport are you upset?

Bullard: Yes, I'm upset because they needed that.

Residents we spoke with in Newport had mixed reactions.

The dispute comes just weeks after Stenger put a three month hold on another part of the huge Northeast Kingdom revitalization initiative, the stateside resort development at Jay Peak. Much of the entire project's financing relies on money from foreign investors through the EB-5 visa program.

But new federal scrutiny of the national program is creating processing delays and that means the cash is not coming in as quickly as expected.

Stenger says he will get the money needed to pay Pomerleau for the Waterfront Plaza and keep the Marina hotel and conference center on track.

Bullard: Do you have the money?

Stenger: I will have, I will have.

Bullard: But he said that’s what he's been hearing for four years.

Stenger: Yah, well four years ago we were building the Tram House Lodge.

Stenger says the funds for Tony Pomerleau's Waterfront Plaza will not come from EB-5 investors but from sources and Stenger is working on getting that money together now. While he's looking for that money he says he's also heading to Washington this week for several meetings which he says he hopes will speed up the EB-5 processing.

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