Dec '23

Commissioners rescind resolution to acquire gentlemen’s club via eminent domain – Home – WSFX

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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners met for its last regular meeting of the year on Monday, Dec. 11.
The commissioners voted unanimously to rescind the board’s resolution passed on Nov. 6 to pursue acquiring the Cheetah Premier Gentlemen’s Club of Wilmington via eminent domain. The county was planning to use the property for expanding parking at its new government center.
They will continue to negotiate with the property and business owners to pursue acquiring the club voluntarily, but will not be going through the eminent domain process.
Commissioner Dane Scalise introduced the motion to take eminent domain off the table. He says talks with the property’s owners have gone well since Nov. 6.
“Eminent domain is a very powerful government tool,” Scalise said. “Sometimes you need to use it, but it needs to be used sparingly. And whenever you’re in the middle of productive dialogues like this one, eminent domain, not right time.”
The county had contracted with the law firm Ward and Smith, P.A. to explore the eminent domain process. WECT is waiting to hear back about how much the county has spent on pursuing eminent domain over the last month.
Scalise says when it comes to finding more parking for the government center, the county will have to keep working. He has not ruled out the county buying the club outright.
“I think that we need to keep talking,” said Scalise. “Staff has told us that we have additional need for parking. And as a consequence, I believe staff whenever they tell us that we have an additional need for parking and I want us to keep that dialogue going.”
Mike Barber, an attorney representing the club’s property owners, says he is grateful that eminent domain is off the table and negotiations will continue.
“We are grateful for the leadership shown by Commissioners Scalise, Pierce and others,” Barber said. “Most importantly, 60 hardworking New Hanover County residents can rest a little easier that their jobs are not in immediate jeopardy. We look forward to meaningful discussions with the County Leadership in pursuit of a solution of long-term mutual benefit and satisfactory to all involved.”
Barber has said that the club had offered the county free use of 74 of its parking spaces since the club’s hours do not overlap with the government center’s hours. Property records show that 30 of those spaces are already on county property.
Commissioners voted unanimously to re-elect Bill Rivenbark and LeAnn Pierce to their positions as chair and vice chair, respectively. They are set to serve in the roles until Dec. 16, 2024.
“I’m humbled to be selected by my peer Commissioners to continue serving as Chair,” Rivenbark said. “Over the last year, this Board has worked together and accomplished so much, including support for workforce housing, the approval of our finance model for Project Grace and a newly adopted five-year strategic plan that will guide our county moving forward. I’m excited to continue this work with my fellow Commissioners and about what we can achieve collectively in 2024.”
Rivenbark was elected to a four-year term from Dec. 2020 to Dec. 2024, and Pierce was elected to a term from Dec. 2022 to Dec. 2026.
A discussion of a proposed 348-unit townhome development was continued to January. The developers applied to have 33.5 acres at 8138 rezoned from low-density residential (R-15) and light industrial (B-2) to higher-density residential zoning to allow for the development.
The applicant said they want to work with neighbors to keep them informed and want to set up meetings with the planning board.
The board approved the applicant’s request to have the request discussion continued to the meeting on Jan. 8, 2024.
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