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Potentially contaminated sites could still be good for ballpark construction

READ MORE: Contaminated potential ballpark sites could be good for business

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- According to experts, there are currently 80 to 90 potentially contaminated properties in the Wilmington area, also known as brownfield sites. The City of Wilmington held a public informational meeting Tuesday night on its Brownfields Assessment Project. Two of the properties are being considered by the city to build a minor league ballpark on the land.

City Councilman Kevin O'Grady says he feels pretty comfortable that the considered ballpark sites will work out, even with the environmental issues.

According to the city's website, brownfield sites include, but are not limited to sites contaminated by controlled hazardous substances and sites contaminated by petroleum or a petroleum product. For more than a century, much of the area was used for shipping. Much of what was stored there ended up leaking into the ground.

The old Almont property, which is now owned by Chuck Schoninger and located along the downtown riverfront, has been defined as a brownfield site since 2008 and is being considered by the city to build a minor league ballpark on the land. Council approved an agreement between Mandalay Baseball and the Atlanta Braves to build the stadium last week. According to Sam Watson, NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Brownfields Manager for the Wilmington region, the land has been in the process of redevelopment for a while and all contaminants have been identified.

“There’s been soil testing, ground water testing, sediment testing in the water, surface water testing,” Watson explains.

He says the property is completely safe to build a baseball stadium.

“Because it's a brownfield site, it's a beneficial site to choose,” Watson says. “It’s already pre approved for a ballpark.”

As far as cost goes, Watson says because it is a brownfield site, the city would have liability protection for cleanup. Councilman O’Grady says clean up costs are already built into the $6 million allotted for acquiring the land to build the ballpark, but also admits there are no certainties that it will be enough to cover all costs.

WWAY also reached out to Councilwoman Laura Padgett for comment. Padgett was the only council member to vote against approving the ballpark agreement. She did not return our call.

Last year the city received $400,000 from an EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant, $200,000 for Hazardous substance sites assessment and $200,000 for petroleum contaminated sites.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.



Do you have a link to the bankruptcy filing you refer to?



I googled Zephyr Land Holdings and it was one of several items which came up.


Is my sense of direction messed up? In all the videos they keep saying hit a home run in the stadium and it goes into the River.

yet when you look at the artist drawing of the plans it would be a foul ball that goes into the river not a home run. (looking from home plate to Center field points towards 3rd St, or away from the river.......)

Just a quirk I happened to notice


Probably hoping to generate

an additional income stream which will somehow flow to Mandalanta.

Retrieve a home run ball hit into the river, and avoid providing alligator patrol with some extra protien, and you will get a free autographed picture of the ground breaking.

Would not surprise me to see the home plate with the river at its rear. Imagine all of the balls hit out of the ball park and their impact on the White Elephant and the cars of patrons who will likely pay $8 just to park for the ball game.

Vote No for a city funded construction of an albatross.

the "hole"

gets deeper.
If they build it near the Homes Bridge the Riverwalk extension (something they desperately want to do) will cost MILLIONS.
This would include bulkhead work from where it ends now right to the Holmes bridge.
This of course is NOT included in "the deal", but, like the public park, is separate.

Everybody got their waders on because it's beginning to pile up here.
Tom, I did some digging through the CO Secretary of States office and could find no mention of Mr Cook in the Paragon filings.



is Colorado based. I got the reference from the Bankruptcy case file which is online and is a mattrer of public record.

I'm still waiting for someone to admit they were compensated for the USA Invest video or come out and admit they did it free of charge as a means of promoting the city and county.

And, I still believe the County should immediately commence action to foreclose on the property for unpaid taxes if that is what the 5 year payment refence concerned

And you're right; it is getting deeper.


Yes Paragon is Colorado based and I saw that on the Colorado Sec of states corporations page.
Michael Cook is a managing member of that LLC

He is also listed as a member of Riverfront Holdings II

So Mr Cook is either a member or Managing member of Paragon, and Riverfront Holdings II, and Sawmill Point.

Thats "curious"


He's covering

all bets.

Now the question to be asked is which parecl sale will be more beneficial?

The level of pollution is "key"

Both parcels have pro's and con's

Schoningers piece is bigger and someone already knows the degree of pollution.

Sawmill is further away from down town requiring Riverwalk to be extended much further and access to the Holmes bridge to go west into Brunswick might be problematic because it's so close.

But look at it this way. They could use Sawmill and turn around and say "no" to the public park as a money saving idea - use the excuse of it's too small. (Schoningers land is 8.5 acres, Sawmill is "almost" 8 acres).

Sawmill to me eliminates any thought of people walking anywhere. People are basically lazy. It also puts the game attendees closer to MLK and the Holmes bridge to get away from down town rather than go to down town.
Then there's "light pollution" mentioned in the NSS report. Picture you're driving over the bridge toward Wilmington and right at bridge level you have banks of outfield lights for the stadium. Light pollution BTW was a "negative" against putting the stadium along Eastwood road..........

Since I don't support taxpayer funding neither site is right with me.
I do however have another site picked out........


Travel along

I-95 in Richmond when their team is playing at the Diamond. And they are 2 blocks off the interstate; and the lights are still distracting.

I note again, the sounds of silence from the Proponents.

Who changed the dynamics?

Has someone finally started reading these posts?

I saw in the printed media that the city is considering an alternate site on the river. Sawmill POint Marina property which is apparently adjacent to the Holmes Bridge.

Reported purchase price is $1.5 million less than the site near the convention center, aka White Elephant.

Still requires referendum approval regardless of site finally chosen.

Wonder how the ball park proponents will react to a change in location?

Conversely, opponents will continue to oppose the use of property tax increase to fund this potential albatross.

The alternate site

Has an application pending as a brownfield site:

"The Sawmill Point property has an application in for a brownfield designation, Caudle said."

Sawmill Point LLC was formed in June of 2012 and its Manager is Patrick Melton of Charlotte according to the Secretary of States page.



you may have looked at the wrong entity on the Secretary of State's website.

I believe Sawmill Point, LLC was formed in 2006.

And surprise, David Spetrino, Jr is the Manager/Member.

Isn't he the same guy who holds a portion of the second deed of trust on the other site?

I guess he's covering all bases.

I wonder if Schoninger will squeal on this or continue to remain silent?

Tom - correct

My mistake. (mea culpa)
The members appear to be Steven Shuttleworth(35%), David White(35%),
Michael Cook of Colorado Springs CO(15%), then Peter Fensel (5%), George Laney(5%), and David Spetrino(5%). This was an old filing and the ownership percentages may have changed.

Cook is the only out of town person involved. Isn't there a Colorado LLC or corporation involved in something else too?

As for Schoninger - what can he say? These guys are offering slightly less land for a 25% discount over Schoningers property.

thanks for seeing the error



Paragon is Colorado based and holds the first deed on SChoninger's albatross.

This gets funkier with every new day.

On another note, you will recall a reference to 5 years worth of payments to be made to New Hanover County once the bankruptcy was approved.

That was turned down some time ago. If the 5 years worth of payments referred to unpaid property taxes owed New Hanover County, it would seem sufficient time has passed for the County to foreclose for unpaid taxes.

That would wipe out the first and second deeds of trust; and perhaps make the original proposed site more acceptable. Especially if any profit made from the sale of the parcel went to the County coffers rather than the beleagured owner.

What about it County? Mr. Thompson, what do you think regarding unpaid property taxes?


You do know what that would mean don't you?
Any monies saved from the $6M allocated for land purchase remediation goes into the stadium building fund.
So if the land cost $1M the remaining $5M goes into the $31M stadium fund.

"..... If the combined cost to the City of site acquisition and any remediation needed for site preparation is less than six million dollars ($6,000,000), the City shall contribute whatever portion of the $6,000,000 is not spent on site acquisition and such remediation to the project development budget for the Ballpark........."

NOT FOR the attached public park
For the stadium !!!!
What a sordid mess this is.



enough voters will catch on to the manner in which these "insiders" have tried to stack the deck so they win no matter which parcel is selected. The key to their success and profit is for the city to pay for the land with property taxes paid; in many cases paid by those who live outside the city and can not vote on the referendum.

It's unfortunate the DA or AG can not be encouraged to look into this in a more timely manner so all of the skinny is outlined for all of the voters.

One other thing. Have you noticed the sounds of silence? Certain individuals seem to have gone into a burrow.

With our planet presently

With our planet presently becoming developed with everything being done at such alarming speed, many people have lost the power to be patient. We have extremely short tempers, and the least little issue will usually get us mad. Simply pay attention to people waiting on a queue at the supermarket and how impetuous a lot of them can get while standing to be settled up if it gets more than usual.

Accidentally cut someone off in traffic and they will begin honking their horn and cussing to you. Road rage remains to be a huge problem on our roads nowadays.

For those who are living in an absolute full surrender with the Lord where He is now the One who is in total influence over your life together with the direction it is currently moving, among the first factors one can find is the fact that God typically has a slower way of fixing everything in ones life.

If you can't realize how to conform to His slower style of doing things in your life, you could get yourself knocked out of one's divine path with Him when you get a bit too eager and attempt to make things be done before these are prepared to happen on His specified schedule

These are some actual situations in which you'll need to possess good patience with the Lord until He brings those blessings into your life.

1. Waiting for Him to give the person He will want you to marry in this life.

2. Anticipating Him to relieve you of a health problem or perhaps disease.

3. Expecting God to unleash you straight to His actual calling for your life.

4. Waiting for Him to advance you into the succeeding new job He will want you to acquire.

5. In case you have just been terminated, awaiting God to guide you to the next new work He may desire you to have.

6. Waiting for God to put you out from an awful litigation you may be having.

Again, there are lots of stuff where you will just need to wait for Him to create things manifest. And when you're anticipating Him to make all of it come to pass, you should rely on your patience to make sure you do not get all furious and then be convinced to want to make it happen before it is prepared to be delivered into your life.

Seeing that God is perfect, then he will forever know exactly the best time to give some kind of reward to your life. And our responsibility is generally to hold the patience to wait this over with Him.

For those of you who are having problems with ones own degrees of patience, and you are being too antsy and even impatient while anticipating God to create specific things take place in your life, what you should do is go before the Lord in prayer. and request Him to unlock the patience of the Holy Spirit within your personality being one of His 9 fruits to make sure you do not let your own impatience pull you into big trouble with Him.

With all of us surviving in an extremely busy world, we all have to have the patience of the Holy Spirit operating through us so and we don't become all bent out of shape far more than all the things that fails in our lives.

Simply talk to the Lord for this kind of divine help, and He'll be very willing to help you out, as one of His greatest and priority objectives for all of us would be to sanctify us and share many of these 9 fruits into the roots of our attitude.

Written by Hanna, hope you like this post and here are 2 more that i have just currently read and liked and

Here's another reason to be cautious

and perhaps it explains the reasoning for haste by the proponents for the ball park.

In 2011, the 2010 bankruptcy filing was denied by the bankruptcy court. I got a head ache from reading it. But the issues appeared to be the close relationship between the owner of the property Zephyr Land Holdings, LLC and the lenders as well as inaccurate annual reports filed by the various entities with the North carolina Secretary of State.

Now the court documents listed a $3 million first deed of trust held by Paragon Properties of Colorado. And then there was a $1.75 million second deed of trust held by David Spetrino, George Laney, & Peter Fensel.

Without getting into a lot of details, you can google Zephyr Land Holdings and view the order, the Judge ruled there were inaccurate filings made with the NC Secretary of State; bankruptcy filings did not disclose the relationship of the three holding the second mortgage and River Front Holdings which somehow was engaged in all of this city slicker stuff.

There was also reference to 5 years worth of payments to be made to New Hanover County to commence once the petition had been approved.

Thus the bankruptcy petition was denied.

But, it gets even deeper.

Google USA INvest Co

The items below came from their website; admittedly they may be a tad out of date. But the website is still up and offers some interesting tidbits.

Very cute. If you are a foriegn investor, perhaps having difficulty bringing yourself and your family to this country, and you can lay $500,000 or more in an EB-5 government approved project, you, your wife, and all of your children under 21 can qualify for green cards to be issued within 6 months of your investment.

And guess what, the project, which had been planned as a marina and hotel, is an EB-5 government approved project. So lay $500,000 down and you can get green cards and be on your way to citizenship.

The only other project listed on the website is out in California.

And guess what? The website makes no reference to the project being converted from a hotel and marina to a ballpark. I wonder if the ballpark is EB-5 approved?

Check out the USA Invest Co website. Who is President of US INvest? Chuck Schoninger.

Guess who does a very nice video presentation for investors to review? A certain city Mayor and a certain County Councilman who had been a City Councilman. Can you guess who they are?

I wonder if the Mayor or Mr. Thompson received payments for their video appearance and support? I must say Mr. Thompson did a superb job of controlling his temper.

If they did, should that relationship have been disclosed early on?

Now given the Mayor's support for the bond referendum, and his various positions as to what "he can live with", would that constitute a conflict of interest?

Watch that video. See the Chinese immigrant who is here on a Green Card and whose children, at the time of the production, were attending NC colleges on scholarships.

If this is not a city slicker deal, I guess I don't know what is.

NO wonder so many are pushing for a toxic site to be sold and used as a baseball park.

What a tangled web some can weave.

Someone should ask the AG to look into this. I'm in Raleigh regularly; and I know him. Perhaps I'll ask.

People want to jab at Romney because his effective tax rate was 14%.

At least he paid taxes.

I wonder if this will explode before election day?

And you know what, they can not deny the facts or the video existance. So bluster all you wish. Get red in the face.

But truth will prevail.


What about the alternate site?
They call it the Dean Hardwoods site but is it owned by Dean Hardwoods? OR some other hastily formed LLC with nefarious intentions?



the bankruptcy file refers to 6.3 acres @ 111 Cowan Street.

Does not appear to be

the other; but I did not perform a complete title search.

My amazement, candidly, was the Invest site with his Honor & Mr. Thompson both appearing.

As I stated earlier, if they were compensated in any fashion, I think they have crossed the line.

Peeling it back .... Just like an onion

Of course there has to be some logical explanation behind all the blather as to why certain proponents of this debacle are so illogically pushing forward, regardless of any objections. Why else would some of those proponents either withhold significant data or purvey "misinformation" so regularly during every step of this sordid process?

Looks like some of those hidden reasons are beginning to become closer and closer to seeing the light of day.

Nice digging Surfy!

What's that smell?

I worked for a fortune 500 company when this scheme was uncovered:
A label vendor had a closed door meeting with the head of purchasing. The vendor said he was going to add $.005 to the cost of each label. (This company bought 10's of millions of labels/year.) The purchasing guy was the same guy who approved the purchase orders. When the the bills were paid, the vendor kicked back half of the overpayment to the purchasing guy. The purchasing agent and the vendor both got rich, the company lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So I ask you, why would Wilmington pay $6,000,000 for contaminated property? Just asking because the deeds of trust total $4,750,000.
(Noting that the deeds of trust are not necessarily what the property is worth, either.)


I can't keep this straight.
$3M is on the first mortgage
Second one is $1.75M
So, about $5M total.
I wonder if this is why Shoninger said $6M is the lowest offer he could accept?
Now, his hotel was NOT the same hotel as the attached hotel to the CC that Eaton wants correct?



again the numbers come from the bankruptcy court file. Figure $4.75 million as the principal on the 2 mortgages. Unpaid interest since sometime in 2010. Throw in the 5 years of payments to New Hanover County; while never referred to as to nature of delinquency, I would think perhaps unpaid property taxes.

It is my understanding his hotel was to be on the Brownfield plot which is now intended for a ballpark.

I would still question the propriety of the Mayor making any statements pro or con if he was paid a fee by US Invest Co for vis video.

They muddle on.

But this is pretty sophisticated City Slicker stuff.

Owner of property

Why is the city not requiring the owner of the property to clean it up? This should have been done once it was found that it was a Brownfield. Why should the tax payers have to pay to clean it up. Let the owner do it then put it on the market or let the city condemn property it and take it.

We should never pay for something that has problems and then expect the tax payers to repair it..

"Because it's a brownfield site, it's a beneficial site"?

Maybe it's just me but that just doesn't feel like a balanced equation. How could potential serious clean-up problems on brownfield site ever equate into it being a "beneficial site to choose"?

"It's already pre approved for a ballpark"? Proponets of a taxpayer funded stadium are now touting this project as a mult-use facility, not just a ballpark. Does that make it pre-approved for a cub-scout camporee (one of the crazy mult-use suggestions) or some other similar activity? Does that make it pre-approved for the proposed city park outside the stadium. Do serious clean-up problems make it a beneficial place for a family with small children to have a pre ball game picnic on the lawn?

Again, maybe it's me, but I just can't seem to get comfortable with that.

Brownfield Stadium

Help! I can't find any property owned by Chuck Schoninger in New Hanover County in the NHC Property Records (on line). There are 3 properties for Zephyr Land Holdings. Strange history for 111 Cowan Street (only .84 acres):

Sale Date Sale Price Grantee Grantor Book Page Sale Key
21-NOV-07 $3,859,500 ZEPHYR LAND HOLDINGS LLC EIDE ALLEN CAROLE 5253 2893 427520

There are 12 pages for this property!
Apppraised Value: $105,300

Anyway, who (what entity) actually owns the old Almont property and what did they pay?

“There’s been soil testing, ground water testing, sediment testing in the water, surface water testing,” Watson explains.

Can the city put test results on line? Who paid for these tests, the taxpayer? Wasn't there a MAJOR oil spill (over a million gallons) released on the property? I'd hardly call it a "leak."

Come on WWAY...we need your A game before we get A gamed out of tens of millions of dollars. Liability protection for the city from the Brownfield program only tells us that you can't be sued for building on a known contaminated site. That's a nice protection for the city. For the public, not so much.

To address some of the guessing

First, I would note I did not perform a title search for any of the properties you listed.

I did however check records with the Secretary of State's Office.

River Front Holdings is an LLC established in 2006. Office location is 720 N Third Street, Suite 301. David Spetrino is listed as Managing Member of the LLC with a secondary address @ 10 Church Street.

River Front Holdings, II is another LLC established in 2006 with a similar office address on N Third Street. Charles Schoninger is the Managing Member of the LLC. David Spetrino and Mike Cook ( from Colorado) are listed as Members of the LLC.

Zephyr Land Holdings is another LLC established in 2007 with a similar office address on N Third Street; however the suite number is listed as 202 on State Records. And, Charles Schoninger is the Managing Member of the LLC.

When you're checking records at the court house or register of deeds office, be certain you have the correct entity listed.

Good Luck as you join the effort to unravel the tangled web.