NC business leaders, others upset with bill that would void Doro - WNCN: News, Weather

NC business leaders, others upset with bill that would void Dorothea Dix lease

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The battle over the Dorothea Dix property resumed Monday as Triangle business leaders met to voice their concerns about House Bill 319.

The bill would void the lease between North Carolina and the City of Raleigh to turn the Dorothea Dix campus into a park.

Monday afternoon, lawmakers listened to the public tell them what they thought of the bill during a public hearing.

"You don't want to be remembered for doing harm for decades to come to grab a few dollars now," one park advocate told lawmakers.

In December, the Council of State signed a contract to lease the Dorothea Dix property to Raleigh for 99 years after thousands of supporters across the state urged officials to turn the campus into a park.

Last Thursday's hearing on H.B. 319 was marked by strong words from some Democratic politicians and also local business leaders.

"A contract is a contract," said Greg Poole Jr. of the Dix visionaries.

Democratic Sen. Dan Blue said he was reluctant to go back and renegotiate, saying, "It is a sad day when one government unit cannot rely on another government unit to abide by the terms it makes."

Sen. Martin Nesbitt, a leading Democrat, said that "people in the state deserve continuity in government," and that the government cannot simply void contracts because it doesn't like them.

Poole said he thinks lawmakers don't understand the depth of support the Park has.

"We met our financial goals in seven weeks," he said. "We pledged to raise $3 million in seven weeks, and we met that goal. It just shows you the people of North Carolina are behind this project. They're ready to go."

But some at the hearing said the new park would short-change the area's mentally ill.

"I want to challenge the people who support Dix Park to rethink things because they don't know there were blueprints drawn up to put a hospital there, but it was moved to Butner at the last minute strictly on a political decision," said mental health advocate Martha Brock.

The Dix property was given to the state so that it could be used for the mentally ill, and some say the need is still here in Raleigh.

"Butner hospital did not replace Dorothea Dix. There are still 500 beds that are down. Our sick, where are main populations is, are without," said Hope Turlongton.

Dix visionaries believe a hospital and a park can't co-exist in the same spot.

"I don't think the delivery of any kind of health -- mental or otherwise -- needs to be in the park," said Poole. "It can be right on the periphery of the park as in St. Louis."

Steve Sbraccia

Steve is an award-winning reporter for WNCN and former assistant professor. A seasoned professional, Steve is proud to call the Triangle home since 2005 after over two decades in Boston, Mass.  More>>

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