Council of State approves Dorothea Dix property sale by unanimous vote

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The Council of State approved the sale of more than 300 acres of state land to the City of Raleigh on Tuesday.

Top executive branch elected officials - which includes Gov. Pat McCrory, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and others - unanimously voted to sell the site where the old Dorothea Dix mental hospital had operated for more than 150 years for an agreed upon $52 million.

McCrory said Tuesday that the land deal is "a win-win" for taxpayers.

The City has wanted for years to use the tract near downtown for a regional park.

Before the approval, some Republican senators had attempted to stop the sale by introducing a bill that would have required the land be sold through the usual state government bid process.

Leaders of the Senate Health Care Committee said the agreement's sale price was too low, and they were worried proceeds wouldn't go to mental health programs.

They cited that they needed more assurances on how 2,000 state Department of Health and Human Services employees still on the Dix campus would be ultimately relocated. The last Dix patients were moved in 2012.

An earlier lease deal orchestrated by then-Gov. Beverly Perdue later that year got scuttled when the General Assembly balked at the sale price.

Raleigh would have paid $500,000 a year to lease the acreage for 75 years - with the amount increasing annually - for a deal worth $68 million. But Republican lawmakers said that cost when adjusted for inflation and other factors would have been equivalent to one-third that amount.

McCrory put the lease on hold in summer 2013 in response to concerns from both House and Senate Republicans. Ensuing negotiations between the governor and the city went on for some time before a tentative renegotiated deal was announced in January.

The Raleigh City Council agreed last month to the terms, which leases back to the state some land where health department employees still work.

McCrory's administration representatives stated in April that sale proceeds would be placed in a trust fund for mental health expenses, and that the administration would work on a long-term plan to relocate DHHS central office at Dix.

Not along after, Republican leaders announced they would no longer try to stop the sale -- saying their biggest concerns about the pending deal had been addressed by the governor's office.

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