Burlington skeptical of giving Don Sinex control of CityPlace again

Published: Aug. 18, 2020 at 1:12 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2020 at 9:34 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington city leaders are skeptical of developer Don Sinex regaining control of the CityPlace project.

Sinex of Devonwood Investors originally proposed the development project but took a back seat when Brookfield got involved and took the lead. Now that they’re officially backing out after two years of delays and unfulfilled promises, Sinex is leading the project and a team of local contractors to get the job done.

City Council President Max Tracy, P-Ward 2, says he’s hesitant about Sinex taking back the project and he doubts he will be able to move it forward. He’s also worried about the city being misled during the process.

“There’s certainly a history there and not a good one,” Tracy said. “A history rife with misrepresentations and misleading city officials and that’s just not OK, so I have deep doubts about Sinex’s ability to move this project forward regardless of whether he has local partners on board or not.”

Tracy says the city hasn’t received enough information or materials to feel confident in Sinex.

“For instance, there’s been no demonstration of full financing or economic viability of the project to date and that’s really problematic,” he said.

Mayor Miro Weinberger echoes those concerns. He says Devonwood has not responded to several requests for pertinent information on the project.

In a statement, Weinberger, D-Burlington, wrote, “Unfortunately, despite repeated requests since mid-July, Devonwood has yet to provide the City basic project information that any financial partner would require when contemplating a new agreement.”

Tracy says the City Council will thoroughly vet the new development team at the next few council meetings to make sure their vision for this space aligns with Burlington.

“We need to make sure we are doing everything we can to protect the public interest and make sure we are not falling into the same trap again which is to just buy what it is that they’re selling,” he said. “That hasn’t worked out for us and I think that we need to try something new.”

WCAX News reached out to Don Sinex on Monday for a response to Weinberger’s statement. Sinex said he wasn’t available for an interview. However, he did send a statement saying, “While the project is overwhelmingly a private development, nevertheless Devonwood understands the importance of the TIF and the two new public streets of St. Paul and Pine to the City and Devonwood will work collaboratively and cooperatively with the City to ensure that these items remain an integral part of the project.”

Tracy says the land is private property owned by Brookfield, therefore they have the sole discretion of who gets to develop it.

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