Wake commissioner: Let voters decide Dix fate

Posted March 19, 2013

— As Raleigh officials prepare to battle state lawmakers over the lease of the Dorothea Dix site, the chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners says the issue should be left to area voters.

Under the terms of a 99-year lease signed in December by Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane and former Gov. Beverly Perdue, the city would pay $500,000 a year – plus annual escalators – for the 325-acre site of a former mental hospital, allowing officials to convert into it into a major urban park.

Republican lawmakers criticized the deal, which they said didn't provide the state with a fair return. They also said it would end up costing taxpayers money because state Department of Health and Human Services offices at the site would have to be moved.

Last week, companion bills filed in the House and Senate called for voiding the lease and renegotiating it at a fair market price, with the proceeds designated for mental health programs. Also, DHHS would be allowed to maintain its offices on part of the site.

Wake County Commissioner Joe Bryan, a Republican, agrees with lawmakers that Raleigh got too good a deal, and he said Tuesday that local voters should decide if they want to pay the state what the Dix site is worth.

"I don't have any problems with having a great park, but let's pay for it," Bryan said. "(About) $500,000 a year, on a lease from city of Raleigh for this pristine area, right in the central part of Raleigh, is not appropriate. It's low-ball."

He suggested that the state get the property appraised and that a bond referendum for that amount be placed on the ballot. A 1 cent increase to the county property tax rate could raise up to $60 million, he said.

A state appraisal two years ago determined the Dix site was worth $60 million to $86 million. With annual escalators, Raleigh's lease would eventually pay the state $68 million over the first 75 years of the deal.

Dorothea Dix-Raleigh land deal Commissioner: Dix deal should be fair to Raleigh, state

"It should be fair to state of North Carolina along with city of Raleigh to pay what the assessed value is for it," Bryan said. "Have those assets available to help mental illness."

The Raleigh City Council and city attorneys met in a closed-door session Tuesday to discuss their legal options for the challenge to the Dix lease.

McFarlane said the state should honor its contract with the city.

"It was a very fair deal. We spent nine years working for this," she said, adding that the value to the state goes beyond the annual lease payments.

"Look at New York. What would it be without Central Park? St. Louis, what would it be without its Arch?" she said. "You really have to be able to see the big picture. It's much more than a dollar-per-acre. At this point, it really is a huge economic engine for all of us, and it benefits the state."

Gov. Pat McCrory, who succeeded Perdue in January, hasn't taken a stand on the proposed legislation. Spokeswoman Crystal Feldman said McCrory supports Raleigh's effort for a park, but he also would like to keep DHHS employees there.

A group of local business leaders and civic boosters known as Dix Visionaries has already pledged $3 million to help the city create a master plan for the park.


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  • Crumps Br0ther Mar 21, 2013

    yah build an even bigger park for the homeless to hangout in, then we will have to pay security officers to roust them every so often. We dont need another park

  • Crumps Br0ther Mar 21, 2013

    Grand Union: "I think it was gifted

    I think you make it up as you go

  • Crumps Br0ther Mar 21, 2013

    So the GOP is going to waste $ on lawyer fees to nullify a contract. And probably lose too. Brilliant!

    what liberal cause would you prefer to waste the money on?

    We dont need another park for the homeless to congregate in, just look at Moore Square.

  • gkgreene Mar 21, 2013

    Grand Union - I would imagine the reason tourists visit Savannah is the same reason that they also visit Charleston and Wilmington - historical and coastal venues. There is always a first; however, I have never heard someone base their vacation desitination to a city to visit a park.

    For all inside the beltline dwellers who state this park is desparately needed - how much time do you spend at Lake Johnson or Chavis parks. I am sure there is room to let your kids run amuck, have a picnic or fly a kite at Chavis.

    For those who believe that contracts have never been voided, spend some time researching that. This contract was rushed through in the waining last moments of Bev's career. If it was such a good deal for the State of North Carolina, why did she wait until the last days and elected to ignore other branches of government. This was a last act of the good ole boy network of which Bev was associated along with her other inside the beltline buddies.

  • wral mods blow close my account Mar 21, 2013

    So the GOP is going to waste $ on lawyer fees to nullify a contract. And probably lose too. Brilliant!

  • Relic Mar 20, 2013

    "The same way any State park does.....by being available for the use of all."

    Horsefeathers. Nobody outside of Wake County is going to schedule a trip to the "park" at "Dix Hill"! Hilarious! Wake County is already the top growing area in the US, is one of the healthiest counties in NC and is one of the richest counties in the State. Folks in the "less fortunate" counties that need resources of our own don't want to pay for a place for already pampered Raleigh folks to play. It should remain what it was purchased and built for and the poor folks from Dix that were either turned out or sent to the hinterlands are the ones that are the real losers in a state whose "mental health" system is a JOKE!

  • Relic Mar 20, 2013

    "Contracts and the rule of law are cornerstones of FREEDOM."

    I think I hurt myself laughing. Contracts have nothing to do with freedom and there's always a way out of a contract. If not, lawyers would not make so much money dealing with them.

  • TVs_Deceit Mar 20, 2013

    Grand Union: "I think it was gifted"

    Your thinking is completely wrong. The land was purchased and construction financed with bonds that have contractual stipulations.

    In other words, the State of North Carolina entered into a contract with the People of North Carolina to build the facility.

    Purdue had no legal authority to void the original contract so the contract she entered into to build a park is illegal and void.


  • itlsss Mar 20, 2013

    There's an interesting concept, let the people that PAID for it in the firest place decide what to do with it!

  • disgusted2010 Mar 20, 2013

    What part of the US Constitution do these excuses of representatives not understand?