Some Republicans in the General Assembly want to reconsider the deal that allows the city of Raleigh to turn the grounds of a now-closed state mental hospital into a regional park.
House and Senate members filed similar legislation Thursday that essentially tears up the December lease agreement then-Gov. Beverly Perdue reached with city leaders for the 325-acre Dorothea Dix property. GOP lawmakers say the agreement was rushed and did not get enough money for the state.
The bill would direct state officials to renegotiate leasing a part of the property at a fair market rate for a park and earmark proceeds for mental health programs. The rest of the land would remain in state hands for employee workspace.
The current 75-year lease would give the state up to $68 million.
Senator, Louis Pate said, "I think the fair thing to do is to start over
again at the beginning and hopefully Raleigh will want to go ahead and invest
in a park. We hope they will."
Senator Pate said the original lease price given to the city
of Raleigh is far below market value, "We know that the land is worth a lot
more than that."
How much more? He says he doesn't know yet. If the bill
passes, the state will hire a professional appraiser to put a new price value on
Mayor of Raleigh, Nancy McFarlane said "I'm extremely
disappointed. We've worked very hard, it was really a nine year process to
finally come to an agreement and there's been so much public support for this
McFarlane said she was shocked when she first found out
about the bill. "I expect the State to
fulfill its contractual obligations. I think that it's a message to anybody
that is entering into a contract with the State. Can they come back and change
it? I'm a business person. I certainly enter into contracts with every
intention to ethically fulfill that contract."
The bill will be discussed on Monday at the Legislature. We
asked Senator Pate how they're legally allowed to go back on the lease, and he
said it's because the state still owns the land. Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane
said she is currently talking with the city attorney, about their legal rights
to fight back, should the bill pass.