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Week of Nov. 22 - The Freeman Park saga ends (mostly), Wilmington vs. STRs, last words for The Big Talker

On this episode, the long, strange tale of Carolina Beach and Freeman Park — including the FBI's most wanted, a trip to Havana, Tupac, and a big spend for a little town. Plus, Wilmington's ill-conceived war on short-term rentals looks to get another ruling in court. And, Wilmington's conservative FM talk radio station calls it quits.

The long, strange, expensive story of Freeman Park

Reporter Michael Praats has been covering Carolina Beach for years — and a lot of that has meant the story of Freeman Park. Owned by the descendants of the Freeman family, the land bordering the beach on the north end of Pleasure Island was historically one of the only beaches accessible by Blacks. Technically part of the unincorporated county, and deeded to public use by state law, Carolina Beach has been given special permission to act as something of a caretaker — and also a gatekeeper, selling passes that net the town millions.

The land by the beach at Freeman Park is difficult — but not impossible — to develop, and that outside possibility has fueled the town's desire to own the land, whether by eminent domain, or a negotiated purchase. The later, as Praats reported late last week, is what the town settled on, to the tune of $7 million — but only after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees.

Freeman Park coverage:

City of Wilmington vs. Short Term Rentals (STR)

A small but politically powerful group, the Residents of Old Wilmington (ROW) raised Cain over the prospect of STRs in the historic downtown. Elsewhere in the city, the issue was far less contentious, and in the unincorporated county the only problem was ensuring the government got its slice of Room Occupancy Tax.

The city dragged its feet for years before finally passing a regulation on STRs, requiring a lottery to limit the number of rentals and registration for owners. The only problem? State law appears to forbid doing that. The city's legal staff said that law didn't apply to them — but a Superior Court judge disagreed after the Institute for Justice brought a lawsuit. Now, the case is being heard by the state's Appellate Court.

The Big Talker's last words

Over the years, 106.7 FM in Wilmington has been home to smooth jazz, The Penguin, and Christian radio — but it's most well known for being the home of The Big Talker for the last four years. There's actually some interesting personal and historical crossover between us and 106.7 and Port City Daily, which we'll talk about. But, regardless of how you feel about conservative talk radio, when the station closes up shop this week it'll be one less voice in the local media conversation — a situation that's by no means exclusive to Wilmington.

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.