The deal that Raleigh and the State of North Carolina, through Gov. Pat McCrory, made on the 308 acres of the Dorothea Dix hospital near downtown is even better for the state in the details.
The city will pay $52 million for the property, endorsed by the Raleigh City Council on Friday, but those Republican members of the General Assembly who have viewed the deal skeptically need to consider the fine points.
They include the fact that the state will lease back from the city about 109 acres, and parts of the property could be used for up to 10 years and other parts would essentially be the state’s for 25 years.
The state Department of Health and Human Services could stay on the site for 25 years, if need be.
The expense of cleaning up the site, no mean feat, would be shared to the tune of up to $1.2 million.
And should the city decide to sell or lease any part of the property, the State of North Carolina could get a chunk of the proceeds for up to 17 years. Finally, the state has a deal to share some parts of the property, including parking lots, for special events. The money from the purchase will go for mental health services, and that’s exactly how it should be.
This is a good deal for the state.
And that’s all the more true since the Dix park is going to be a public park for all the people of North Carolina, tens of thousands of whom come to the Capital City to tour, teach and do business every year. Now they will be able to go to the hills of the Dix property and enjoy one of the most spectacular views of downtown Raleigh there is.
So, yes, while this park will be an enriching experience for the citizens of Raleigh, it will benefit all visitors for generations to come.
What now remains, as is the case with property deals, is the May 5 vote of the Council of State, nine officials elected statewide. The group members are the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, superintendent of public instruction, commissioner of agriculture, commissioner of insurance, attorney general, commissioner of labor and state auditor. Three of the council’s members are Republicans, the rest Democrats.
Ordinarily the partisan breakdown wouldn’t matter so much, but the Dix deal has been infected with politics almost since the beginning.
Former Gov. Beverly Perdue, a Democrat, did the deal in the waning months of her administration. Perdue’s term, the last part of it in particular, was marked by battles with Republican legislators who gained control of the General Assembly during her time. As a petulant act of defiance, the Dix deal was sacrificed for pure partisan spite. Some GOP lawmakers claimed the deal wasn’t good enough, but theirs was a weak argument.
McCrory, however, extended the deadline for negotiations. Things moved along until at last the governor made a deal. Unfortunately, some GOP legislators continued to resist the deal and talked about putting the property up for the highest bid, even though some developers have warned there could be problems given the presence of offices and the need for environmental cleanup, not to mention rezoning that would have to be approved by the City of Raleigh.
Thankfully, those lawmakers gave up the fight.
The Council of State may see some “no” votes, but it’s likely the Dix deal will be approved. Thus a long-running, sometimes dramatic and sometimes silly story will have a happy ending. And now the city can begin the best part of the adventure, designing a park that will serve the people long after the fuss is forgotten.