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New Hanover County says "no additional information" on strip club acquisition, property owners blindsided

The Cheetah strip club with the newly redeveloped New Hanover County government center in the background.
Benjamin Schachtman
The Cheetah strip club with the newly redeveloped New Hanover County government center in the background.

On Monday, county commissioners approved $2.36 million to begin eminent domain acquisition of the Cheetah strip club next to the county's government center. The property owners said the move came "out of the blue." Meanwhile, the county declined to answer questions.

The eminent domain resolution, which was not included on the agenda for Monday's meeting, was added by County Manager Chris Coudriet in the final minutes of the meeting. He identified the property only by its county parcel ID number and did not mention the street address or business name.

Related: NHC commissioners approve last-minute $2.36-million eminent domain resolution to acquire strip club

Beyond saying the land would be for a “public use,” Coudriet gave no explanation. County commissioners unanimously approved the resolution and a budget amendment without discussion.

The county approved hiring Ward and Smith, PA to notify the property owners of the condemnation action and, if necessary, to handle the civil litigation involved in eminent domain.

"Out of the blue"

The resolution caught the property owners unaware, according to Jerry Reid, one of the managers of New Hanover Golf & Travel, LLC, which purchased the club location in early 2011 for $1.45 million.

"So this is the first I've heard of anything," Reid told WHQR on Tuesday afternoon. "It came right out of the blue."

Reid said he respected the county and his LLC had always had a good relationship with them, saying they'd worked with them to get easements needed for the government center.

"So, it's just surprising to me that nobody picked up the phone and tried to reach out to us and say they were interested in the property," Reid said.

Reid noted that he often gets calls from people inquiring about purchasing his property, and always asks if they're representing a municipality or county.

"Nobody has done that," he said.

"No additional information"

On Tuesday morning, WHQR sent New Hanover County a number of questions, including why the resolution was not included on the agenda, why the nature of the property wasn't addressed, if the county had made any previous offers on the land, if commissioners had been encouraged not to have any public discussion of the resolution, and when those elected officials found out about the proposed resolution.

Having heard that the move was designed to provide additional parking, WHQR also asked if the county failed to adequately plan for parking when it approved the design for the $46 million government center, as well as how many parking spots the county expected to receive for the $2.36 million outlined in the budget amendment.

Tuesday afternoon, the county responded with a press release issued to local media outlets, including a statement from Coudriet:

The county identified a need to expand parking facilities to better accommodate our citizens when visiting the newly constructed government center. Exercising eminent domain to acquire the neighboring property is a legal and measured step towards fulfilling this need. The law ensures that the property owner will receive fair market value, aligning with our responsibility to act in a balanced and lawful manner.

A county spokesperson also added, "this situation is an ongoing matter and we will be providing more information as it becomes available. Currently, we do not have any additional information. Thank you for your patience."

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature. He loves spending time with his wife and playing rock'n'roll very loudly. You can reach him at BSchachtman@whqr.org and find him on Twitter @Ben_Schachtman.