After years of creating a ‘public nuisance’ for nearby residents and businesses, the Prince motel is on the verge of being shut down. We look at the lengthy legal process to make it happen and what’s next for the site.

By Billy Liggett

The drug deals in their front yards, the regular successful and unsuccessful attempts to break into their cars, the prostitution arrangements happening just down the street, the regular doorstep visits from men and women asking for money … these regular occurrences for the residents of the Rosemount McIver Historical District in Sanford — commonplace for at least the last decade — just kind of vanished in April of this year.

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“It was routine — sometimes weekly — to see concerns raised via our neighborhood social media page reporting suspicious behavior or criminal activity,” says Al Roethlisberger, a Gulf Street resident and longtime neighborhood advocate. “[Over the past few months], we can’t recall seeing a single concern raised by the community. There’s been less suspicious activity in the area and a notable decline near our home.”

The sudden reprieve from the nuisances that have plagued Roethlisberger and his neighbors and nearby businesses for years has coincided with the forced shutdown of the nearby Prince Downtown motel in April of this year.

And it’s no coincidence.

For years, the Prince — located just blocks from the heart of downtown Sanford and mere feet from residents of the historic district — has been an epicenter for criminal activity in the city. The run down motel on Carthage Street, built as a motorlodge in the early 1960s, was responsible for more than 130 calls to the Sanford Police Department regarding complaints or alleged crimes from January 2017 to February 2019, before The Rant first wrote about the effect the business was having on the surrounding area.

Little changed after the story — crime remained consistent and culminated with the murder of a 36-year-old man on site in 2021 — until the City of Sanford filed a formal complaint against the motel’s owners with the State of North Carolina in June 2022, calling the Prince a “public nuisance” and requesting a trial with the goal of shutting it down. In April of this year, a North Carolina Superior Court judge ordered the Prince to close immediately.

That was three months ago.

And while it’s been a peaceful three months for those who’ve endured the problem neighbor for over 15 years, the decision in April doesn’t necessarily close the door on the Prince for good. Owners Paresh Naik and Amita Paresh Naik — who failed to respond to the initial public nuisance complaint in 2022 — have finally responded with an appeal to the 2023 ruling and have thus far refused orders to pay for the demolition of their motel.

The appeal seems like a long shot, but it has put the brakes on a true “victory” celebration for the city and those who’ll benefit from shutting it down. The overall outlook is much more positive than it was in 2019.

“The issues and concerns with the Prince have been complex,” says Roethlisberger. “In the end, I think we were all concerned about the quality of life, well-being and safety of both the residents of the Prince motel and the surrounding community. We think the continued operation of the Prince presented a current and ongoing threat to those considerations.”

Police investigate a murder at the Prince Downtown on June 28, 2021, the second murder at the motel since 2012. Between 2017-2019, Sanford Police received more than 140 calls about alleged crimes at the Prince, leading to 40-plus arrests.


Back in 2019, Phil (who asked to not include his last name in this story) talked about the first time he saw the Prince after moving to Sanford’s historic district just blocks five years earlier. “My God. What an eyesore,” he remembered saying. A few weeks after moving in, a package was stolen from his front porch. Phil saw the theft happen, chased the man and was able to snap a picture of him with his phone. He learned the man was staying at the Prince, and after a call to police, Phil got his package back.

He witnessed much worse in the years that followed. Two men smoking a crack pipe in a parked car in front of his house. Drug deals and prostitution on Gulf Street near the intersection with Carthage. People stumbling in front of his house, visibly intoxicated or high, he says.

The Prince Downtown was built around the early 1960s and was originally called the Town House Motel — guests were mostly travelers of U.S. 1 (before I-95 would become the preferred north-south corridor) and while Carthage Street in Sanford was still considered a thoroughfare. Above is a comparison between the structure 60-plus years apart.

“The worst and scariest incident was when that dude got shot and killed up there in the parking lot,” he says, referring to the murder of Marquas Sintress Roseboro on June 28, 2021. Roseboro was found shot to death at 5:55 a.m. on a Monday morning in the Prince’s parking lot. It was the second murder in a nine-year period — in 2012, two men were arrested for stabbing a 20-year-old man to death during a fight.

In 2019, Phil said he and his wife, who were parents of two toddlers at the time, went back and forth on whether they wanted to stay in the neighborhood and move. “It’s hard to just let our children play outside with all the foot traffic — strangers — coming and going from that place. It’s concerning.”

They stayed. And since April, Phil has seen an immediate change for the better in his neighborhood.

“It’s definitely become safer,” he says. “Much less foot traffic, and I have not seen any drug deals. Nothing has been stolen from my yard since it closed.”

Shutting down businesses that a city or community deems a public nuisance requires a lengthy, complicated legal process, no matter how “obvious” the nuisance may seem. The state’s Alcohol Law Enforcement Division (ALE) is authorized under Chapter 19 of the N.C. General Statutes to investigate alleged public nuisances and make recommendations regarding actions to abate them.

ALE runs a specialized team to investigate properties deemed to be a nuisance — special agents receive in-depth training in Chapter 19 enforcement, civil procedure, paralegal certification and other corresponding legal procedures.

By law, “nuisance” activities include prostitution, gambling, illegal possession or sale of drugs or alcoholic beverages, and repeated acts which create a breach of the peace. The civil penalties for operating a nuisance include fines, forfeitures and even jail time for failing to comply with judgments.

Police reports alone over the past several years made for a solid case against the Prince. An official familiar with the legal case (who asked for their name to be omitted from this story) said in addition to shutting down the property, owners Paresh Naik and Amita Paresh Naik are also required to pay to tear down their buildings and pay any costs or attorney fees taken on by the city. The owners have appealed the ruling, which means the buildings will remain for the time being.

“It’s their right to appeal,” the official says. “But these nuisance laws are in place for reasons like this. I’ve felt really bad for the neighboring businesses and residents who have had to deal with this for so many years. They’ve dealt with needles in their yards and parking lots. Parents have been afraid to let their children go outside and play near it. None of this is good, so I think closing this motel has been really helpful to these folks.”

A look inside a the rooms, hallways and parking lot of the Prince motel in July, less than three months after it was forced to shut down. Squatters still occupy some of the rooms, and trash remains strewn throughout the premises.


On April 29, Prince residents received a letter from owners Paresh Naik and Amita Paresh Naik that read: “It has been a pleasure working with you while you were staying here at The Prince Downtown. Unfortunately, the Prince Downtown is closing on Friday, May 5, 2023 at 5 p.m. You are responsible for the expense of removing all of your personal items from the property before the time period. We will make appropriate time arrangements to settle all closing records with you.”

While much of the criminal activity in its immediate area was attributed to men and women staying at the Prince, not all of the motel’s residents were responsible for the nuisance. Former Sanford Mayor Chet Mann said in 2019 the motel has served a “very important purpose” as a shelter for those unable to afford permanent housing. The Prince was an option for police officers or sheriff’s deputies to house a homeless person, especially on particularly cold winter nights or sweltering summer days.

“It’s a Saturday night, and we find a guy with no shoes on, it’s raining outside, and he has nowhere to go,” Mann said. “He says he lives three to four hours away and has no money to get home. We take him to the Prince. They provide a service we simply don’t have here in Sanford — a place for people who need shelter. It’s important that we don’t lose that.”

That is no longer an option. And for many who received that letter on April 29, there was little time to (less than a week) to pack up and find a new place to live or stay. The city, in partnership with local nonprofits, were ready for that challenge.

According to a press release from the City of Sanford on July 19 titled “City credits team effort for cleaning up the Prince,’ the court’s ruling did not require Sanford to help the motel’s tenants. “However,” the release read, “due to the short timeline for tenants to secure safe, decent and affordable housing, city officials felt a responsibility to be part of the solution.

Staff reached out to S3 Housing Connect agencies to establish a team to advocate for and support the motel’s tenants, focusing on those who had lived on the property for a long time. Just days after the court order was signed, they were on-site to share information and assess needs. The organization delivered a typed notice to all residents explaining the details of the motel closure and that the city and community were coming together to help them.

“For many of the tenants, the Prince Downtown had been home for years and making a new start was going to be overwhelming,” says Byron Buckels, Sanford City Council representative for Ward 4. “We wanted to do what we could to make the process a little less scary.”

The city partnered with Sanford Housing Authority, Outreach Mission (OMI), Health Healing Hope (H3), Brick Capital Community Development Corporation and Veternation to discuss options and lay out a plan. H3 and OMI emerged as the lead organizations, because they had existing relationships with many of the existing tenants through ongoing outreach at the motel to offer medical care and provide safe shelter.

“The agency relationships that have been developed through S3 Housing Connect over the last five years were crucial during this process,” says Hamer Carter, president of OMI. “Without those working relationships, we would have had limited success finding safe, decent housing for these tenants.”

Katherine Holt, the children and family minister at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Sanford and a board member of OMI said St. Luke has been and continues to be in ministry with the now-former tenants through the church’s ARK (Acts of Random Kindness) ministry, providing food and clothing to the families and children who lived there.

Holt said H3 and OMI took the lead to find alternative housing for 18 long-term residents at the Prince, the majority of whom were placed into alternative housing within 60 days. The city provided temporary housing during the placement process, she said. Residents from the Prince were placed in private landlord settings as availability allowed, some into one-bedroom apartments and others into single family housing (apartments or mobile homes).

“Living conditions had deteriorated to such a low degree at the Prince that the residents who lived there have been placed in improved housing,” she said. “They are now paying less per month for better living conditions. Affordable housing is very scarce and difficult to find in Sanford, in particular with folks who have challenges.”

Holt says OMI has data on the residents, which allows them to follow up and ensure that they are sustaining themselves through this process.

“Before, during, and after the closing of the Prince Motel, we continue to meet former residents where they are,” she says. “We are building an army of hope dealers by showing compassion, treating one another with the same love and respect that we would treat our family and Jesus. We are here to love them where they are.”

As a result of the partnerships and the outreach, all but one of the long-term residents of the Prince were provided with access to “a safe, decent and affordable place to live” within a month of the motel’s closing.

“The relocation process was one of the most challenging things I have ever done,” says Cindy Hall, director of street medicine for H3. “We did our best to treat each person with compassion and dignity, and we worked long hours searching for suitable homes.”

A 2019 “Complete Streets” feasibility study imagined a potential future for the Prince motel site that included businesses, upper loft apartment, townhomes and adequate downtown parking.


Gulf Street resident Brian Gould is glad to see the Prince go.

He views the motel’s owners as “slumlords” and says he not only had to deal with fallout from the Prince over the years, but had his own slumlord issue next door to him — regular police visits, drugs, prostitution — up until a few years ago.

Life is quieter in his neighborhood today. And while he’s happy for the peace, Gould also understands the plight of those who have had to rely on the Prince for shelter.

“I’ve slept in my car. I’ve battled addiction. Yet somehow, I own a home and a truck and have a clean record,” he says. “People need to be picked up; not beat down. The Prince’s closing has been a positive. There are not always easy answers, I have noticed in the last few months an increase in people [in Sanford] who appear to be homeless or may have mental issues. I get the impression that some folks have nowhere to go, and they may feel lost now that the Prince is closed.”

Gould calls the roughly half-acre tract of land on Carthage Street “prime location” and says he would like to see an entrepreneur do something good with the property. Phil would like to see the building torn down and replaced with “some legitimate businesses, restaurants, whatever.”

“After reading the affidavit and learning what the owner was doing to the tenants, they can go to hell in my opinion,” he says. “I’m so glad that place is shut down. Sanford is a better place without it. Good riddance.”

Before the COVID pandemic, Carthage Street, which runs in front of the motel and into downtown Sanford, was the subject of a feasibility study called “Sanford’s Complete Street,” which aimed to provide “safe pedestrian and bicycle accommodations to multiple users and destinations along the [Carthage Street and Charlotte Avenue] corridor and two planned greenways.” During meetings and presentations on the study in 2019, the Prince was mentioned often — the study included residents’ quotes asking for it to be shut down, and one page of the 99-page study included a potential “Prince Redesign” that included mixed-use retail, upper-story residential lofts, townhomes and adequate parking.

That study is currently on the shelf, and any improvements to Carthage Street and potential changes to the Prince won’t begin until at least 2024. But the closing and possible demolition of the Prince is an important first step.

“The demolition of the Prince would immediately make that property available for a project of this kind and begin to deliver on the opportunities that are there,” Roethlisberger says.

There is no timetable on the owners’ appeal on the nuisance ruling, but if the ruling is upheld, that will be the end of it. They would have the option of selling the land to recuperate any losses, but the demolition of the buildings would be required by law. 

“The court’s ruling achieves the city’s goals in filing the original lawsuit, which was to preserve the safety and well-being of all involved,” the city wrote in its July 19 press release. “Permanently shutting down the motel and removing the buildings protects tenants from living in unsafe conditions, and also protects neighboring residents and businesses from future nuisance and criminal activity.”

“I am very proud of the city’s efforts on behalf of our community and on behalf of the former tenants of The Prince Downtown,” says Linda Rhodes, Sanford City Council member at-large. “We were able to balance the prevailing needs of all parties, and I look forward to seeing the positive changes that will no doubt occur downtown.”


Excerpts from the city’s July 19 press release were used in this report.