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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Freeman Park property now in the hands of LLCs. Is development in the future?

Freeman Park’s Zone 18 during high tide. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY CAROLINA BEACH)

CAROLINA BEACH — While the focus of discussions surrounding Freeman Park have largely revolved around proposed rule changes for guests, something else that could have an effect on the park has largely gone unnoticed – the transfer of private property from the Freeman family to LLCs.

Once the property of the Freeman family, town documents now show that a majority of the property is owned by LLCs.

While the private property might be changing hands, Town Manager Michael Cramer said, regardless of who owns what, Freeman Park will continue to operate as usual for now.

Who owns what?

When it comes to ownership of the property at Freeman Park, things can get convoluted. The park is actually owned by New Hanover County and operated by the Town of Carolina Beach.

Cramer said the town does own some of the property at Freeman Park, which is how the town is able to charge vehicles fees to access the land.

Under North Carolina law, all beaches are public property, and any private property that abuts the ocean ends at the mean high-water mark.

According to state law, “The public having made frequent, uninterrupted, and unobstructed use of the full width and breadth of the ocean beaches of this State from time immemorial, this section shall not be construed to impair the right of the people to the customary free use and enjoyment of the ocean beaches, which rights remain reserved to the people of this State …”

The chairman of the Freeman Park Committee, Steve Casey, said in an email to Town Council, “… the hard pack is off limits to everyone, the soft sand is open to everyone, everything else is private property, Freeman Park is the property of New Hanover County, not Carolina Beach.”

“The hard pack refers to the beach that the ocean surf packs down when it ebbs and flows. Vehicles are not allowed to drive on that hard pack, they should remain in the soft sand,” he said.

Private property

An email entitled “Freeman Park with Developable Acreage,” which was sent to Cramer from GIS Administrator Gigi Baggarley showed several different LLCs as property owners of several tracts of land.

A GIS image from the Town of Carolina Beach showing property owners at Freeman Park (Port City Daily photo/COURTESY CAROLINA BEACH)
A GIS image from the Town of Carolina Beach showing property owners at Freeman Park (Port City Daily photo/COURTESY CAROLINA BEACH)

Freeman Beach LLC, B&F Enterprises of Calabash LLC and Carolina Freeman LLC are all shown as property owners in the park.

During a Town Council meeting in November, Cramer noted that there had been requests by property owners to grow the sand dunes toward the ocean, as well as requests for the installation of a sand fence.

Cramer said that while there are several LLCs that have purchased property, it appears they are all controlled by the same entity.

The Freeman Park Committee

The Freeman Park Committee is a town-appointed board formed to provide an, “organized forum for two-way communication between the Town of Carolina Beach,” according to town ordinances.

In the email, Casey states the Freeman family are no longer owners of Freeman Park and asks if the committee is still obligated to keep a Freeman family on the board.

According to Cramer, he is working to set up a meeting with members of the Freeman family to discuss where their ownership stands.

Another issue that arose in the email, as well as during the Town Council retreat earlier this month, was the gift of 20 free park passes to the Freeman family.

When Ruby Freeman requested 20 additional passes for the Freeman family, Town Manager Michael Cramer said in an email, “I have a concern about authorizing extra passes this year. When we review the title on the properties associated with Freeman Park all but two properties have been purchased by another group. The reason we have been giving you additional passes is because you were one of the property owners.”

Port City Daily has reached out to the Freeman family for a comment, but had not been contacted at time of publication.

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