Raleigh, N.C. — Mayor Nancy McFarlane said Friday that state officials need to pick up the pace of negotiations that will allow Raleigh to convert the Dorothea Dix campus south of downtown into a regional park.
"The whole process has been very frustrating," McFarlane said.
Then-Gov. Beverly Perdue agreed late last year to lease the 325-acre Dix property to Raleigh for a park, but Republican lawmakers didn't like the terms of the deal. Legislators couldn't agree what to do next, so Gov. Pat McCrory and Raleigh officials delayed the lease until next June to allow for new negotiations.
McFarlane sent McCrory a letter on Nov. 13 stating concerns about a "pattern of delay" in the negotiations, noting the city had a Dec. 1 deadline for environment assessments of the property.
"It just seemed to become harder and harder to get the information back that we needed," she said Friday. "I felt he needed to know that we were not going to meet that Dec. 1 deadline and why."
The deadline has since been pushed back to March 1.
"Clearly, we don't have any more wiggle room. We need to stay on task," McFarlane said.
McCrory said last week that he wants to reach a renegotiated lease agreement by early December.
"I want this Dix Park to work, but I also have to protect the interest of the state," he said. "I have to think about the long-term goal of needing facilities for health and human services."
The Dix site includes state Department of Health and Human Services offices and a now-closed mental hospital.
The Governor's Office offered no updates on the negotiations Friday.
McFarlane said she hasn't heard from McCrory since she sent the letter, but she remains optimistic.
"He's very good about calling me back, so I'm hoping he will and that he'll take into consideration my suggestion we meet on a regular basis," she said. “Regular updates are going to be incredibly important, so I’ll have to keep on it.”
Any new lease agreement would have to be approved by the Council of State – and lawmakers also might want a say in the final terms of the deal.
"I'm convinced we're going to get it done," McFarlane said. "I don’t want to spend taxpayer dollars in court. That’s not productive.”