Midtown Raleigh News

Effort to revoke Dorothea Dix lease leaves Raleigh’s first payment unknown

The General Assembly’s efforts to revoke Raleigh’s lease on the Dorothea Dix property is putting a question mark in the city’s budget for next year.

The original lease – which Republican legislators want to scrap – is simple from Raleigh’s perspective: Pay the state $500,000 a year to build a park on the 325-acre property. The city, however, will pay less initially because state offices remain on the site for the foreseeable future. The lease calls for the city and state to agree on a lower amount that factors the Department of Health and Human Services’ use of several buildings.

But since legislation has put the lease in jeopardy, Raleigh can’t get a meeting with state officials, City Manager Russell Allen said Monday.

“We are not exactly getting the best cooperation from the Department of Administration regarding the agreement with Dix,” he told the city council during a budget workshop.

DOA officials have told the city that the talks are “premature” until the agency gets more direction from the legislature, according to a city council memo sent Monday. But the first check comes due July 1 as long as the lease stands – and legislation to revoke it is now in private conference negotiations between the state House and Senate. The House version of the bill would keep the lease intact until new negotiations are complete next year, but the Senate voted down that compromise measure last week.

That leaves Allen with a financial unknown. He’s budgeted $250,000 for the first payment based on an earlier discussion with DHHS, but other estimates show the city could owe up to $444,000, and the exact figure from the state is anybody’s guess.