Legislators will be asked to pass a law this spring that would require them to formally sign off on any sale or lease of the Dorothea Dix hospital property near downtown.
The law would complicate plans to put a park on the property, an initiative that got a boost this year from Gov. Bev Perdue.
Without a law requiring legislative approval, the Council of State a group of statewide elected officials could approve the Dix property land sale without the legislatures input.
After years of pushing to have a landmark park on the property, plans lurched forward in February. Perdue released the results of a property appraisal and told the Department of Administration to look for a tenant representative to study the options for moving 1,300 state employees who work on the campus. The property includes a state psychiatric hospital that will be emptied of its final few dozen patients in August.
Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican, proposed Tuesday that an oversight committee in health and human services recommend a law that would prevent the Dix property from being sold, leased, rented, or gifted without legislative approval. The suggestion to introduce such a bill passed with unanimous committee support. Legislative committees spent this winter readying proposed bills to file when the legislature returns for its short session in May. This would be one of them.
Wake residents began working years ago to turn the Dix property into a 306-acre park. In 2007, former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker offered to have the city buy the Dix property from the state for $10 million.
The recent appraisal says the land is worth much more than that. It put the current value at $60 million and its value in a fully rebounded market at $86 million.
Dollar said the proposed bill isnt a knock against the park idea, but represents the legislatures interest in having a say in what happens to the land and where state employees who work at the site will move.
This is a very important piece of state property, Dollar said.
We want to ensure that the General Assembly has the final say in the disposition of the property, he said. We want to get all the options on the table and make sure we have all the information at hand before decisions are made.
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane said the legislators she has spoken to are supportive of a park. One thing all legislators want is for the proceeds of a sale to go to mental health, she said.
McFarlane said she heard a lot of support from residents during her campaign last year, and hopes a deal to create the park can be struck this year.
I just really think the will is there, she said.