UPDATED: Led by Gov. Bev Perdue, North Carolina officials voted Tuesday to allow the city to develop a major park at the Dorothea Dix Hospital campus, in a lease that will cost Raleigh about $68 million over 75 years.
The Council of State approved the controversial deal by a 6-2 vote with one abstaining after a vigorous discussion about whether it is a good deal for the state.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity that will improve the quality of life for generations to come,” said Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat. “I think it’s shortsighted to analyze this as a pure economic transaction for the state.”
“I believe this lease is way below fair market value,” countered Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, a Republican.
The agreement satisfies Raleigh’s decade-long vision for a destination park just south of downtown and ended months of negotiations and a week of contentious discussion about the deal.
Perdue, the outgoing Democratic governor, pushed to vote on the park plan at the council’s final meeting before she leaves office. But Republicans, including Gov.-elect Pat McCrory, asked the statewide elected leaders on the council to reject the plan, or at least delay a vote until the new administration takes office next year.
The City of Raleigh is expected to approve the agreement at a meeting later Tuesday.
An advocacy group called Dix Visionaries announced a day earlier that it would raise $3 million to cover the cost of a master plan for the park, which is a requirement of the state lease. The pledge marked the latest phase of an effort that has unfolded for nearly a decade in the form of yard signs, grassroots campaigns and meetings with leading citizens across the state.