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Berger’s pledge to nix Dix park draws criticism

A day after Senate President Phil Berger tweeted that legislative leaders would explore options to terminate plans to develop a major park at the Dorothea Dix Hospital campus, North Carolina’s editorial boards are weighing in.

The Fayetteville Observer [1] strongly critizes Berger’s efforts to “sabotage” the deal between outgoing Gov. Bev Perdue, the Council of State, and the City of Raleigh:

“Ever since Perdue unveiled the plan to create a park on the mental hospital’s land, Berger has been in exceptionally high dudgeon. His outrage appears primarily pinned on the potential financial value of the land. He says the property is worth far more than the $68 million Raleigh will pay to lease the land over the next 75 years. [2]

Berger had legislative researchers document the land’s value, and of course they found it has greater worth – especially if it’s developed as commercial property.

But what is Berger suggesting? That a cluster of high-rises would be better than a park? Better for whom? Deep-pocketed, politically active developers, perhaps. Would he prefer that the state sell the land to developers, or lease it to the city at a much higher rate, and thus make a killing on Raleigh taxpayers’ backs?

Berger’s bluster is, so far, monaural. His fellow Republican leaders, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Gov.-elect Pat McCrory, have been low-key about the plan, although McCrory has said he’d prefer that the decision about the hospital land be left to his administration.

Berger, however, has vowed to do whatever he can to overturn the action when the General Assembly returns to session next month. If he does, that will be unfortunate, because one of Perdue’s last major initiatives in office is a good one.

We hope Berger is left to rage alone. Sabotaging this park plan is not a good use of the General Assembly’s time or efforts. We need our state government to find more ways to add or preserve green space for our growing population, and to do it in ways taxpayers can afford. The deal cut by the governor and Raleigh is just that. It’s hardly a pot of gold for the state treasury, but it does return revenue to the state and offers a new urban park to residents and visitors in our state’s capital city. That is the highest and best use of the land.”

And then there’s this from The News & Observer [3]:

“While the park’s approval is heartening, the reaction of Berger and conservative groups is discouraging. Republicans, about to take control of both the General Assembly and the governorship for the first time in a century, send a dismal “humbug” message about their sense of stewardship by attacking rather than endorsing the Council’s act. Gov.-elect Pat McCrory, despite the short-sighted grumbling from members of his party, should stand behind the council’s thoughtful approach toward meeting the needs of today and tomorrow. “