Stewart's plans in limbo

WARRENSBURG The town planning board approved a plan Tuesday for Stewarts convenience store to double the size of their premises by acquiring neighboring Potters Diner and an adjacent motel and home, and demolishing all the buildings. But such plans which include constructing a new store and gas island this summer over the two combined plots are apparently in limbo until the true ownership of Potters Diner is determined. Sue Millington, attorney for Potters Diner proprietors Rena Morehouse and Brian Umpy Pryme, told the planning board that Stewarts should be buying the property from her clients, and not the owner as recorded in the county records, Virginia DiFranco. Millington produced a copy of a contract for sale agreement between DiFranco and the Morehouse-Pryme partnership which gives the latter two possession of the diner, motel, house and accompanying land, but withholds the transfer of title until all payments are made. This agreement, she said, was valid, but never recorded at the Warren County Clerks office as the seller should have done. Millington said she was prepared to take DiFranco to court in an effort to prove that Morehouse and Pryme own the property that Stewarts wants. The company has signed a purchase option with DiFranco. If this requires a lawsuit, thats where it will go, Millington said. My clients are working hard running the diner, and have devoted many years of their life to it. They may choose to continue to run it, or they may sell it to Stewarts it's their decision. Millington said her clients paid DiFranco a $33,579 down payment for the property in 2002 when they bought it, then made additional payments including $20,500 more in principal in the next two years, when payments were lowered and the property was refinanced. There are 11 years now remaining on the contract for sale, Millington said. She said her clients may have made late payments through the years, but that DiFranco and her attorney Howard Krantz of Lake George never notified them of default nor took action to take back the property. Efforts to reach DiFranco in Florida were unsuccessful. Krantz was unavailable, but his associate, lawyer John Aspland said Morehouse and Pryme broke the contract for sale, but declined to talk about details, or why the document was never recorded. As far as were concerned, they did not meet the terms of the contract, he said. Tom Lewis of Stewarts Shoppes said his company wouldnt be taking over property without clear title, and they were still seeking to buy the property from whomever could prove ownership. Rena Morehouse said the fight to retain ownership over the historic Potters Diner property now a sought-after plot wasnt a matter of money. This is my life, and at this point I want to hold on to this place, she said sipping coffee at her diner counter, reminiscing about how the eatery was once a busy stop for truckers, open 24 hours per day, before the Northway was built in the late 1960s. Potters Diner was launched in 1925 in a converted trolley car, the frame of which is still behind the walls of the diners front section, she said. This is my work and my home I live on the property too.

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