The city of Raleigh's attorney said Wednesday the city has a valid lease with the state of North Carolina to use the Dorothea Dix property and create a park, a deal that was signed by former Gov. Beverly Perdue before the current administration took office.
‘It's our position that we have a valid lease," Thomas McCormick told WNCN Wednesday.
The North Carolina Senate wants to change that deal. The Senate on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 334 by a 29-21 vote. That bill directs the state and the city to enter into a new lease on a portion of the Dorothea Dix campus "at a fair market value" for use as a public park.
In December, the Council of State, under Gov. Bev Perdue, signed a contract to lease the Dorothea Dix property to Raleigh for $500,000 per year for 75 years with a 24-year renewal option after thousands of supporters across the state urged officials to turn the campus into a park.
However, Republican lawmakers have raised questions about the deal and believe the state didn't get fair market value for the property. The Senate bill is "an act to condemn the leasehold interest in the Dorothea Dix campus property conveyed to the city of Raleigh."
Under a new agreement, the city would be able to lease around 200 acres of the Dix property's 325 acres of land for use as a destination park. Also under the new agreement, "all revenues from leases of the Dorothea Dix Property [will] be held in a special fund for appropriation by the General Assembly for mental health purposes."
The portion of the Dix property that the city does not lease can be used by the Department of Health and Human Services to house the consolidation of 2,500 DHHS employees working in Wake County.
McCormick, asked if he was surprised the legislature moved to void the lease, said he didn't want to comment at length on the matter. But he did say that if the terms are changed, "We expect just compensation."
Section 10 of the lease addresses "Condemnation." In that section, the lease spells out terms in case "the fee in the Leased Premises is taken by virtue of eminent domain."
The Senate bill does speak directly to any compensation for the city. In Section 3 (a), the bill states, "If the City of Raleigh contends that it is owed just compensation, it shall, within 60 days of the effective date of this act, file a special proceeding in the Superior Court for a determination whether just compensation is required and if so the amount of just compensation."
The bill requires that a special three-judge panel would decide any compensation to Raleigh.