N.C. Supreme Court dismisses City’s Heart of Albemarle case

In a legal dispute that’s lasted more than three years, the North Carolina Supreme Court last week dismissed the City of Albemarle’s case against Chucky and Jennifer Nance, who once owned the Heart of Albemarle Hotel property.

Mayor Ronnie Michael, after speaking with city council, said they have decided to not move forward with the case.

Michael said he expects to receive an official order regarding the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the case soon.

He doesn’t know how much the final costs of the litigation will be until court motions are finalized.

The issue stems from a lawsuit filed by outside counsel to the city in 2017 alleging the hotel property was a public nuisance. Albemarle Police visited the property 79 times from 2014 to 2017 “in response to complaints of criminal activity, including assaults, sales of narcotics, and solicitation of prostitution,” court documents claim.

The City Council did not pass a resolution authorizing the filing of the lawsuit, Chuck Nance said last summer. He said Michael ordered then-police chief Danny Bowen to push for the lawsuit. 

In May 2018, Stanly County Superior Court ruled in favor of the Nances, stating the city did not follow the proper channels by allowing the Police Department to move forward with the lawsuit. In early June, the three-judge panel for the North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling. The case was appealed last summer after the city agreed to petition the case to the highest court in the state. 

The Nances purchased the Heart of Albemarle Hotel property in 2012 and leased it to Charlene Smith, according to court documents. 

Police officer Star Gaines said the property was used for narcotics sales and prostitution, according to court records. She said drug dealers and prostitutes were known to frequent the hotel. A witness reported seeing tenants operating multiple methamphetamine labs in unoccupied rooms. 

On March 24, 2017, the Nances received a notification from the city that their property was being used in a manner that was illegal. 

Chucky Nance evicted all tenants and closed the business to resolve the situation 28 days after the notice was delivered. Four months after the hotel closed was when outside counsel for the city filed the lawsuit alleging the property constituted a public nuisance. 

Contact reporter Chris Miller at 704-982-2122.