A Wilmington adult entertainment club, Cheetah Premier, is currently engaged in a heated battle with New Hanover County’s Board of Commissioners over a recent eminent domain declaration. 

On November 6th, the Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to explore using eminent domain on Cheetah Premier to secure more parking space for the county’s new government complex nearby. At the same meeting, the Board also approved a budget amendment to spend $2.36 million on purchasing the property.

“The county identified a need to expand parking facilities to better accommodate our citizens when visiting the newly constructed government center,” said County Manager Chris Coudriet in an interview with WWAY. “Exercising eminent domain to acquire the neighboring property is a legal and measured step toward 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.”

The phrase “eminent domain” refers to the government’s power to take private property without the owner’s permission. In this case, the club’s legal representatives spoke out against the ruling a few days after the decisions.

“At no time prior to this date did the County, the County Manager, its agents or employees, acknowledge to us that they needed additional parking, or were willing to use significant taxpayer money to purchase our location,” said Jeff Melendy, director of operations for the club. “We gladly offer a shared parking agreement to the County providing over 70 parking spaces, which will more than satisfy their suggested parking demand.” 

In addition to its complaints about a lack of notification, the club contends that the county’s demands are not entirely sensible because the club’s hours of operation are from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m., whereas the government center operates from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The county could theoretically use the club’s parking spaces during working hours without competing with Cheetah’s customers. 

The owner of Cheetah Premier, Jerry Reid, purchased the property for $1.3 million in 2011. Reid told the Port City Daily that he was neither aware of the county’s intention to declare eminent domain nor any other counter offers. Reid explained to PCD how he was never approached with a formal offer by county officials and that the brokers who did speak with him about possibly buying the club did not identify themselves as contractors for the county. 

New Hanover County government complex artists renderings. Source: https://www.nhcgov.com/

Commissioner Dane Scalise told PCD that previous conversations between the county and Cheetah Premier’s representatives did occur, but the communication made a deal seem unlikely.

“It does seem clear now that they’re interested, and I really appreciate them making that clear and being willing to talk this out,” Scalise told PCD.

Even State Treasurer Dale Folwell has gotten in on the action, saying the county should accept the club’s counter offer or repurchase land from the former government center’s location.

“I don’t see much evidence that you really care much about the development next to you if you build the brand new county building outside of a strip club,” Folwell said during a September hearing in which New Hanover County officials argued new public-private partnerships would help develop the surrounding area.

Despite these rising tensions, there is some hope for reconciliation. For one, Commissioner Scalise, in an interview with PCD, stated how he believes the commissioners need to devise a creative solution through open communication instead of continuing their current “telephone game.” In addition, there is some precedent for the kind of compromise that both county and Cheetah Premier representatives hope to reach. A nearby business, Ten Pin Alley and Breaktime Billiards, already has a shared parking arrangement with the county, providing a template for a future agreement with Cheetah Premier. Though the matter is still ongoing, the commitment by both sides to ensuring a fair solution for all parties involved seemingly indicates that a resolution is not too far away.