House backs tweak to Dix bill

Posted May 22, 2013

— The House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Wednesday afternoon to rewrite Senate-passed legislation in an attempt to resolve the ongoing battle between city and state over the Dorothea Dix property in Raleigh. 

The bill would allow the state to negotiate new terms to sell a large chunk of the Dix property along with land used by the Governor Morehead school to the City of Raleigh. 

As with a bill that cleared the Senate earlier this year, the House version of Senate Bill 334 would effectively undo the deal signed by Gov. Bev Perdue on her way out of office that leased the 325-acre Dix campus to Raleigh for a regional park. But unlike the Senate bill, the House version offers some concessions to the city, the biggest of which opens the way for negotiations to sell the Morehead property, which would link the Dix campus to Pullen Park. 

"Everyone can agree that having a solution is better than not having one," said Jordan Shaw, a spokesman for House Speaker Thom Tillis. "We hope this bill will make it possible to find a solution."

The Senate-approved version of the bill would have used the state's powers of condemnation to take the lease from the city, a strategy that prompted threats of lawsuits.

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane City, state leaders think compromise possible on Dix property

The House version of the bill, a draft of which was reviewed by WRAL News Wednesday morning, already has the blessing of city officials. 

The bill lays out a number of potential legal problems with the Perdue-signed lease, including:

  • A potential issue with the original property grants being given "in trust." Legislative lawyers say they are unclear on what exactly those deed provisions mean, but say it could open the state up to a lawsuit by people who need mental health services. That issue, they say, could be cured if proceeds of the sale were put toward mental health, but not if the sale is below fair market value. Lawmakers say the Perdue lease under-values the property.  
  • The fact the governor may have exceeded her authority when she signed the lease. As WRAL reported last month, the Council of State did not receive notice of all the lease terms, including a provision that allows the city to borrow money against the value of their interest in the Dix property. The Council of State did not have notice of that "leasehold interest" provision when it granted the governor authority to sign the deal.
  • A problem with when the lease was signed. The governor is required to give the General Assembly 30 days notice of any transaction that sells or leases property. Perdue signed the Dix lease 28 days after notifying the legislature. 

Citing this litany of faults, the new draft of the House bill dissolves the Dix lease. However, that provision doesn't take effect until April 1, 2014, giving the state and city time to negotiate a sale while preserving the city's right to sue if a deal can't be reached. House lawmakers are hoping their approach will make the city decide not to sue and rather renegotiate the deal. 

City leaders, including Mayor Nancy McFarlane, have said they believe the lease is legal and don't agree there are any potential legal defects. Dix Visionaries, a private group helping to raise money to build the park, also backs the lease. That House bill attempts to appease those parties rather simply retake the property by force of law. 

The bill calls for the state to preserve some of the property as a location for the Department of Health and Human Services. The rest of the land would be sold to the city at fair market value as a cash sale, an installment purchase or some other method agreeable to both parties.

As an enticement to the city, the bill also says the the Governor Morehead School grounds could be included in the deal. Until Wednesday, the Morehead property has not been part of the negotiations. 

Further, the bill reserves any proceeds from the sale for mental health purposes. 


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  • iarmstrong84 May 23, 2013

    I walk my dog around Dix occasionally...and I never see another soul walking around sans the soccer fields between Dix and Pullen Park. A 300 acre park will be such an under utilization of land in the already very underdeveloped Downtown Raleigh.

  • AlbertEinstein May 23, 2013

    Many aspects of this transaction provide many questions within our current legislature (many of which are attorneys and have a little bit more legal perspective than what is clearly demonstrated here). The legal consensus driven by the other people in this great state (sorry Raleigh, you are not the majority) demand that this transaction/lease be investigated and/or revoked as soon as possible and hold the people who ramrodded the ill-fated process responsible.

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh May 22, 2013

    Sue, Nancy, Sue!

    You owe that to all of us here in Raleigh!


  • lizziefischer May 22, 2013

    A park would be a tremendous asset to Raleigh and North Carolina. It would be a place that would bring great value to the land around it and provide a beautiful place for revenue generating events and essential green space to keep attracting young, vibrant people to our city. Look at Zilker Park in Austin for a similar sized park with a similiar relation to downtown. The park and the quality of life opportunities that it provides are a tremendous draw for Austin. Dix Park would be a great legacy for the leaders that bring it to reality!

  • baldchip May 22, 2013

    Bevvie-hoping for redemtion froma disaster of a term-tried to negotiate with the City of Raleigh for her legacy. So-her legacy is just another failure. She gave away the taxpayers land for a pittence of it's value.

    She did not care-she was on her way out!! Incompetence appears again-similar to DC'S incompetence.

  • dwntwnboy2 May 22, 2013

    The city should fight for the legally signed lease they have. It was a legally signed contract that they are breaking- make the State pay for breaking the lease!! It was done legally, in good faith and took over 10 years to get done only to have the greedy Popesters come in and break it. No one should trust ANYTHING this current NC administration does. It's going to take us years to undo the damage they have done.

  • Guy May 22, 2013

    We have the chance to save this treasure as a park. A one time chance only. It should not be politics. We should join together to save his property. Ask yourself, would there be something wrong with making this Dix property a park ? No, it would not. The state has plenty of land elsewhere for office space. In years to come we could even move Pullen Park to Dix and give the Pullen property to NCSU. I will always regret that the good people voted to build Western Blvd. so close to Boylan Heights. We gave away a beautiful meadow and buffer to Boylan Heights not even knowing what would happen to the rest of the Dix property. I hope that the good people don't mess up this chance to do the right thing.

  • markjb33 May 22, 2013

    I know this is not a real popular idea here, but possibly it should be.
    That land could be used to build a new sports arena, a football stadium, or whichever city leaders fell may draw another major league team to Raleigh.
    Jerry Richardson has threatened leaving Charlotte, and he wouldn't even have to change the teams name to move to Raleigh.
    I however would like to see a baseball stadium. The bulls are nice, but not MLB. The closest is either Washington or Atlanta, neither really close.
    If Raleigh really wants to compete, not just with Charlotte, but Atlanta, it needs pro sports teams

  • mrr03 May 22, 2013

    Raleigh should looks someplace other than the Dix property for a park..Who would dare enter into another contract with a State who backed out of the first contract subsequent to it being signed in good faith..

  • loriblake1 May 22, 2013

    The Governor Morehead property is not only used by the School for the Blind, the state has also signed a 20 year lease with Wake County Schools for use of the property for the Young Women's Leadership Academy. What will happen with that lease?