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Dorothea Dix Property


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In fairness the Dix property is State land which means someone who lives in Wilmington or somewhere else in NC should have the same amount of input regarding the use of the land as Wake County residents. People forget that the state owns this land, not Raleigh or Wake. As a resident of the Triangle I am glad that I have input into the use state land, whether that is at the beach, the mountaints or in my home county.

You are technically correct, but there is a local element to the equation that must be considered no matter what the simple, 'best outcome for the State and its taxpayers' result is, affected locals should get a greater say.....the same is true of the OLF for instance we hope...

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Updated plans for Dorothea Dix Park have been revealed: http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/counties/wake-county/article219492075.html?__twitter_impression=

Drove through Dorothea Dix property today.  Lot of potential here for sure. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I went to the forum, and thought it would be a little more in the way of a debate or a discussion among the panelists, but it was essentially a chance for the various park and mental health groups to speak on the what they saw as the potential for the land, nothing new.

Mitch Silver mentioned the city is now behing the FDDP/306/Visionaries park plan, and the mayor and council had been exploring various ideas on funding and what it might take, but it sounded very conceptual, as if there is no action on moving forward on the city's side. He mentioned the site is not very well connected, and that we must improve any future connections via walking and transit between DT and Dix while being careful to include the fragile neighborhoods to the east (I agree 100%). He also noted if the city were to buy and operate the park, the ongoing maintenace could be very costly... up to several $M per year.

I must say, I hadn't realized the sorry condition of mental health in the state these days, and apparently there is no hope in sight for improvement. I'm sure it one of the least publicized issues in this state today, and until some light is shed on the problem, it will continue to fly below the radar. The state has planned to use funds from the Dix sale to the mental health trust fund, but the speaker last night (state mental health assoc.) said that was doubtful, given past state govt. raids on that fund.

As far as funding goes, the city could raise money from the private sector (helped by Poole) and supplement it with a bond issue in 2008 (if there's still time by then--too late for a bond this year) to pay for Dix and offer to purchase the land from the state. I think some sort of public/private non-profit organization could help manage and pay for the operation of the park. When I took a second look at the various plans for the all-park concept, and looked at the insitutional uses all around (NCSU, farmers market, Prison, Pullen) and historic Boylan Heights to the north, I really think a TIF is impractical for that site, given the lack of opportunities around the site for redevelopment.

The public impression is everyone is just waiting around for the Governor or legislators to do something, but nothing is moving forward, other than bills in the GA that would delay the closing of the facility and a potential decision on the land. We're waiting, but I'm not sure what for, and I got no indication that the Dix issue was closer to resolution after last night.

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I don't know how they can talk about funding the Dix 306 plan when there is no plan specified. The lack of detail makes it impossible to have a serious discussion about what it would take to make "the plan" (ha) a reality.

Kudos to Silver for telling the truth about what it would cost to run an urban park properly. I could see the current council balking and asking over and over again, "why does it cost more to run than Shelley Lake or Durant Nature Park? It just doesn't make sense!"

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Since its widely accepted that Butner will not have enough beds to house all the patients that need to be there I don't have a problem with Dix being renovated to continue being the Mental Health facility it was designed to be. I know money is the ever looming question.

Edited by Jones133
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I accepted the closing of Dix because the Butner facility was going to be able to handle even more patients than the existing, decaying facilities. If that is not the case, then Dix needs to continue to operate, and possibly upgrade/replace on that site.

That being said, there is a lot of other land that would make for a nice 200ish acre park. The city/county/private partnership could offer to buy the grove, the hill, etc. The money from the sale could rennovate/replace existing facilities on site, and/or consolidate DHHS on Lake Wheeler Road or move them downtown to the east of NC History museum block (proposed earlier on UP).

It is good to see Planning Directory Silver (someone who knows a lot more than I ever will) mention the same issues I've had with the "all park" idea -- impact to the east edge neighborhood, connectivity, and ability to pay for the park's land, operations, and upkeep.

Dix 306 feels a lot like the TTA intial rail service proposal. They both promised a great service for not a lot of money. But they were based on incorrect assumptions -- low cost of rail (TTA) or land (Dix) acquisition, a large amount of federal (TTA) or state (Dix) financial support, etc. The proposals themselves are good ideas, but scaled down (*not* watered down) versions of the initial proposals (Cherokee-TTA, ULI-Dix) are more feasable.

I do think the city (and maybe county) needs to take a leadership position, since it is a lower priority for the state/govenor, just another administrative issue. NC State and the Farmer's Market should also be brought to the table, as they will be affected by whatever happens there.

The planning department and urban design center can try to court developers interested in the Dix land to explore the Lake Wheeler/Maywood/South Saunders area to the east as an alternative. It is as close to downtown, has mostly the same view, yet is woefully underutilized. I don't know if there are environmental issues there, but a sand and stone distribution place and Volume 11 Tavern recently opened up near the Maywood/Lake Wheeler intersection.

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I don't know how they can talk about funding the Dix 306 plan when there is no plan specified. The lack of detail makes it impossible to have a serious discussion about what it would take to make "the plan" (ha) a reality.

Kudos to Silver for telling the truth about what it would cost to run an urban park properly. I could see the current council balking and asking over and over again, "why does it cost more to run than Shelley Lake or Durant Nature Park? It just doesn't make sense!"

What the three park groups advocated for was a park concept and that the important thing is that it be designated a park, and that it was less important to define exactly what would go there. I tend to agree that it's fairly easy to say, "do we want to allow development or keep it a park?" A park could include lots of items that have been mentioned by the park groups... ball fields, museums (mental health), botanical garden, passive recreation, walking trails, amphitheater, etc, and 306 acres can certainly accomodate that. To me, the broader vision is more important than the precise makeup of the park at this point.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I received an email at 2pm today with the following announcment:

MEDIA ADVISORY

June 13, 2007

Raleigh Mayor, Friends of Dorothea Dix Park,

Dix Visionaries and DIX306 to Make Major Announcement

WHAT: Press conference to discuss the future of Dorothea Dix Campus

WHO: Charles Meeker, Mayor of Raleigh

Jay Spain, President of Friends of Dorothea Dix Park

Gregory Poole, Jr., President of Dix Visionaries

Bill Padgett, organizer of DIX306

WHEN: TOMORROW, Thursday, June 14, 2007

Press Conference: 10:00 a.m.

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Interesting. Would be nice if that deal could get cut soon. I'm sure its an announcement of a financing plan. I was reading a column from Jack Betts, the political beat writer from the Charlotte Observer, hinting there may be plans for a major botanical garden on this site-maybe there's an announcement for that plan as well.

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Here's the N&O story on the news conference.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said the city wants the property to be appraised as parkland to determine its worth. He estimated the 306-acre site, which overlooks the central business district, is worth $10.5 million as parkland.

...

Gregory Poole Jr., president of Dix Visionaries, said his group plans to raise more than $7 million from private donors to go toward the development of the park.

I must say, I'm underwhelmed. I agree with pdx, they aren't even in the right ballpark. ULI proposed $40M, and some have said it's worth much more. I know they are arguing that it's worth less as a park, but that's not going to fly in the legislature where most reps probably want to see as much cash as possible for a potential sale. I wouldn't be surprised if some on Jones St are snickering about this.

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Good place to start. I would lowball too. They do make a good point that the land itself is not worth that much. If the state wanted to sell for $40 million+, would a developer really buy it? Probably not. Although it is a prime piece of property, they would never recoup their investment just on the land purchase.

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God!...Of all the stories I read out of Raleigh, this one is probably the most disheartening. Even at $50M, Dix Hill Park would come in at around $164,000 an acre -- which is a steal for land located that close to the CBD of a city the size of Raleigh, especially one with the wealth that city has.

Assume a city population (static, which it won't be) of 350,000

30-yr. bonded debt of $50,000,000

10% interest rate (very generous, and the type that many parents and grandparents would buy for their kids and grandkids)

360 monthly payments of $438,786 each

Total 30-yr. bonded indebtedness of $157,962,960

Bonded debt divided by 350,000 residents = $451.32 per capita, or $15.04 per capita, per bond year (which in context is one-quarter of a monthly cable TV bill)

At an average of $2,000 per investor that comes in at about 79,000 separate individual and corporate investors (the latter which can write them off as munis on fed taxes)

(I think the region can scrounge up that many.)

Please. A 306-acre urban park will generate far more than $158M in peripheral value. That's 395 condos at $400,000 apiece (which is laughably low in this context). That's about the equivalent of two 25-story towers with 8 units per floor. C'mon.

A view of Crabtree Valley from Soleil commands more than that!

IMHO, what needs to happen is this. First, take the city out of the equation up front. A $10 million offer isn't enough to wipe the State's ass with, and should be considered an insult. Take the $7M that was ponied up by private donors, and use it to create a quasigovernmental park district. I'm thinking that should be enough to line up the investment banks for a bond issue. Some method of reimbursing the original donors for their contributions could be wrapped into the subsequent financing. Finance the purchase of the park as a personal investment, as well as a civic investment for city residents and other would-be buyers. Funds enough for this project will never come about through donations alone, and neither will it from the tightassed city. (The city wouldn't be so tight if it had more forward thinkers that could see beyond stripmalls and tract homes.)

Take a horseshoe-shaped sliver of land from around the perimeter of Dix, and privately develop it through the auspices of the quasi. High-density, period. A few condo towers, perhaps a hotel or two to service Centennial Campus, and maybe some other high-end stuff around the western, southern, and southeastern edges of the park -- protecting the north and northeastern views of the skyline. Strict covenants with adequate separation of structures and public access routes, and landscaping of private properties complimentary to the park, and approved by the quasi. Developmental proceeds go to retiring the bonds for the park, and excess investments from same can go toward other park improvement or acquisition projects either at Dix, or elsewhere in the region. Added with revenues that could be generated from existing buildings being retrofitted as museums, galleries, theaters, etc., the park district can develop its own sustaining income stream. Using San Diego's Balboa Park as a model, you could have such attractions as an arboretum, an aviary, a historical museum, a technology/science museum, a model railroad museum, an IMAX theater, and any number of drama theaters and artist/designer studios and workshops within the confines of the old Dix facility, all collecting rent, and all made viable, as a collection sited in a pre-existing location, where they may not have been viable before, separately and in proprietary digs.

The 30-year escalating value of the land will more than outrun the bonded debt, so it shouldn't be that hard to bond this. What's more, the quasi-district would deed the park to the city, but with a s#!tload of strings attached, all performance-based, into perpetuity. If the city does not maintain the park properly, does not invest into the infrastructure and ammenities sufficiently, or flat missuses it or does not respect the mission of the park, the land reverts back to the quasi for whatever type of disposal it deems appropriate (they could even deed it over to Cary, which would really piss Raleigh off -- he, he). One other thing the quasi would need to do -- to protect itself and the value of the parkland -- is to boilerplate an agreement as to how the surrounding land would be zoned, i.e., it would behoove them to demand medium- to high-density residential and/or commercial around it (highrises, if you will) in order to purposefully inflate the value of the land, thus offering further protection for the bonds, before deeding it over to the city. If the value escalates enough within the first several years, the financing could be rewritten (although with this type of "intergenerational" bonding I doubt there would be any pressure to do so).

I am thinking that about 225 or so acres could be preserved for Dix Hill Park by doing this, including the existing medical campus, which could be retrofitted or razed where appropriate. It is probably similar to existing ideas, except that I fear that other plans are for slicing and dicing chunks out of the property, leaving scraps for a scattershot park. If some financing method isn't used (and in the process, some land forfeited), the park won't exist at all, in any size. And if private developers are put in charge of the P&D for this site, you'll undoubtedly end up with a "McPark". Setting up a quasi gives more control, and if concerned citizens (and park users) end up being answered to as the primary investors, then far more control over the fate of the park is retained. If anyone is distressed about a city park ringed by highrises, consider that it could be worse. There could be no park. If one thinks "flat" development on this, it doesn't work. It would take 15 or 16 "mini-Biltmores" at $10M apiece to make this thing fly, and trust me -- between them, they would want way more than 80 acres for their money.

But, if Boylan Heights wants to play NIMBY spoiler, would rather have a Milquetoast office park next door, and have "Chicken-fried Sing-Sing" (referring of course to the Central Prison makeover) as a neighbor than have -- oooh! -- tall buildings next to them, then I guess all is lost, and all of us should just throw in the towel on the place.

Quasi-govs aren't a panacea by any means (in fact Phoenix abuses the hell out them), but they are sometimes useful in beating sloppy and inefficient municipal governments over the head in order to get things done. The renaissances of many a struggling downtown were not accomplished by city governments (in fact they often happened in spite of them), but by strong-willed quasis that acted in their own self-interest. If developers were smart (although I've never accused them of that), they would lead the bandwagon and start this process themselves. Whatever they did with the surrounding land, sans Dix Hill Park, would be way less valuable long-term than if the park were there -- even if the acreage they had to work with was a lot less after the park was established. They could, ostensibly, drive up the rate of return on less land, requiring less infrastructure investment, creating marquee portfolio properties around a major urban development (read, national press), all with other peoples' money starting the engine. But the problem with developers is the need for instant gratification, the quick buck, and the loud-mouthed boast at the next cocktail party. But as I said, if they were smart, they would act in the public interest on this one.

I hate to be a wet blanket here, but I'm of the opinion that if Dix Hill Park can't get done, there probably isn't much else that will either. Mass transportation projects are way more complicated, and are fed by the monetary dynamics from DNA-level projects like this. If Raleigh continues to be "Mayberry with a gland problem" (not meant as an insult folks, but it's my own personal nightmare from a homeboy pride standpoint, even though I don't live there), it stands to reason that a Balkanized major infrastructure task like TTA, or big-city cultural ammenities for the fairly sophisticated people you have living and working among you (and those that would), will ever come to bloom. Truth is that Raleigh and Durham have both overachieved as mid-sized cities, but now that Raleigh is hitting critical mass in both population and capital investment, there aren't any more excuses for why the city can't function as the major economic center that it is -- which includes the ecoutrements such as large, urbane parks, museums, big metropolitan libraries, and at least the possibility of a non-auto existence for its citizenry.

The city of Sir Walter has spawned more than its fair share of curmudgeons over the years, in the mold of "Senator No" himself. I can live with that as long as the big stuff gets done. But so help me God, if Raleigh is hellbent to become another Phoenix -- another characterless, indistiguishable blob filled with angry, lost people -- I'll forge my birth certificate and say I was born in California. I'm using Dix as the litmus test.

:hi:

Ciao!

Edited by vitaviatic
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^ :lol:

I gotta say that you've got a grand plan, but part of the problem with Dix is the surrounding land is either almost all insitutional (NCSU, Prison, Farmers Market), historic (Boylan), or low income (along Lake Wheeler)... I've never been sure how all of the proposed redevelopment concepts around the fringes of the park would be able to address the physical constraints in lack of connectivity to the surounds and social justice in moving out hundreds of lower income folks who live to the east.

Your overarching points, I completley agree... Raleigh can most certainly afford much more, and this is a critical point in it's history, and I agree, how the city handles issues like Dix (transit, etc) will be telling for it's future. I think it's time for the city to come off it's stingy ways and put a legit offer on the table.

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But, if Boylan Heights wants to play NIMBY spoiler, would rather have a Milquetoast office park next door, and have "Chicken-fried Sing-Sing" (referring of course to the Central Prison makeover) as a neighbor than have -- oooh! -- tall buildings next to them, then I guess all is lost, and all of us should just throw in the towel on the place.

Bingo. Ultimately, I believe this is what the Dix 306 movement is about. This is why they never have any answers about what the "destination park" will look like, or how they are going to get people to the "destination park" without massive transit improvements or piles of parking decks. I've been waiting for some evidence to the contrary, but I heard a Dix 306er on the radio this morning, again comparing Dix to Central Park. The mantra to preserve all of Dix as a park without any advocacy for upzoning surrounding neighborhoods or even developing the perimeter and preserving 200-plus acres shows that the 306ers don't understand why Central Park works.

You're also right that the $10 million is a pittance. I would expect the State to laugh at such a number.

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Something I find interesting: The land Centennial Campus sits on (about one square mile) used to be part of the Dix property. Gov Hunt gave it to the university as a land grant in the '80s. I know that's essentially transferring land from one branch of state government to another, but is the division between city and state so large that Raleigh should pay $40M+? If both levels of government are really trying to best serve the public interest, should the financial burden fall on local government, which typically has a very constrained budget? I know a land grant to the City is way too much to hope for, but it's sad to see money as the driving force for Dix's future.

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Something I find interesting: The land Centennial Campus sits on (about one square mile) used to be part of the Dix property. Gov Hunt gave it to the university as a land grant in the '80s. I know that's essentially transferring land from one branch of state government to another, but is the division between city and state so large that Raleigh should pay $40M+? If both levels of government are really trying to best serve the public interest, should the financial burden fall on local government, which typically has a very constrained budget? I know a land grant to the City is way too much to hope for, but it's sad to see money as the driving force for Dix's future.

I agree. I think that it should be state policy that other governmental bodies, be it state or local, should have first dibs at a property owned by the state. If this is all about money, then our representatives at the state level are not doing their jobs, which is to promote the growth and prosperity of NC and its citizens. Selling this property to Raleigh is not in any way going to affect the state's bottom line. While they may not get a ton of money for it, a government body isn't supposed to be out to make a profit, all that matters is that they break even. I have written to my representatives and Easley over this issue and basically told them what they do with the Dix property will be an election year issue for me. I encourage everyone here to write to their representatives and Easley to express your opinion on the matter. :)

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or how they are going to get people to the "destination park" without massive transit improvements or piles of parking decks

I am so glad someone else out there has thought of this.

Although, from where I'm seeing the 306 signs springing up, I guess 'Destination Park' supporters are happy to let the neighborhood across Lake Wheeler Rd. deal with this issue.

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I agree. I think that it should be state policy that other governmental bodies, be it state or local, should have first dibs at a property owned by the state. If this is all about money, then our representatives at the state level are not doing their jobs, which is to promote the growth and prosperity of NC and its citizens. Selling this property to Raleigh is not in any way going to affect the state's bottom line. While they may not get a ton of money for it, a government body isn't supposed to be out to make a profit, all that matters is that they break even. I have written to my representatives and Easley over this issue and basically told them what they do with the Dix property will be an election year issue for me. I encourage everyone here to write to their representatives and Easley to express your opinion on the matter. :)

With respect to Centennial, Gov Hunt was a grad of NC State, so I'm sure he felt he was doing right by them, and he could probably have made a pretty good argument that transferring land to a university was a smart thing to do. The problem with a grant to local govt is that the legislature is made up of various reps from all over the state. Consider a representative from the E. or far W. NC in a district with little in the way of resources or an economic growth... how can that state rep from a relatively poor area vote to "give" the state land--worth well over $40M--to a local govt that sits in perhaps the most wealthy area in the state? It's just not going to happen, and frankly, the better question we should be asking, is why did the city lowball so badly? We live in an area of relative wealth, and I'm sure that there is lots more money out there to be acquired through private means or a public bond issue.

On the 306 issue, I must say that after thinking through a lot of the issues, I am questioning the choice of the all-306-acre park. Nobody wants to address this, but Mitch Silver alluded to it a couple of weeks ago... the site has terrible connectivity, there is almost no residential to speak of near the site, and the only legitimate area that could be redeveloped is a low-income, minority community. In some ways, it's a planners nightmare. I do think that there must be a comprehesive plan to deal with the issues... improve access, transit, walkability to DTR, parking?, residential access, minority gentrification issues, etc., and that doesn't even get into some of the larger state issues of how to deal with the mental health funding, etc. Eventually, these are issues the 306 advocates must address.

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If one sees accessibility as a problem for Dix, that would be true if it were to converted to park as is. That will not happen under any rational circumstance. First of all, a lot of the inventory of streets could be eliminated once the hospital closes. There will be no more need for that entire grid of service roads anymore. Some around the perimeter of the main hospital will be left certainly, but the rest serving the outbuildings will most likely be ripped up and replaced with fountains, gardens, or plain old grassfield.

Parks aren't like urban streets. They can (one might argue they should) be circuitous. A ring road would either be made out of the existing streets (Tate, for example) or rebuilt completely. Western Blvd., as I commented on in the whole Central Prison redevelopment spiel, has plenty of capacity left, provided it isn't clotted up with traffic lights. The same could be done with the Dix access as was with Pullen -- lifting the eastbound lanes up over the westbound (or vice versa), and bridging over Western to eliminate the left turn from downtown. I have heard horror stories about buses that can't get across during rush, but that is a problem that could also be addressed as a capital improvement project if Central Prison does get taken offline, and the prison site gets redeveloped too. But this is the problem. Everybody keeps seeing Dix as a separate project. Park or no park. Period. A good planner would see a much, much bigger picture. But it seems nobody pays attention to the forest -- just that one bleeping tree.

Ergo, if Central Prison is redeveloped, that entire section of Western comes into play, all the way from Pullen to Boylan. My argument would be for, in the area that Hunt Dr. dumps into Western Blvd., a major traffic circle be placed -- not one of these froo-froo, "round the fire hydrant" deals, but one that would contain a Buckingham Fountain, or major sculpture (although considering the fate of Sr. Plensa, good luck with that one). It would round about a city block, and make closing the Boylan link possible, creating a seemless pattern through Boylan Heights. A more ovular artery would work to untangle the Pullen, Ashe, Bilyeu mess up the street, perhaps less ornate, but functional and certainly more attractive than what is there now. Out of that might come a parkway (a real one) that completes the triangulation between Western Blvd. and Lake Wheeler Road.

Chief, I understand your concerns about the institutional uses prevalent around there, but remember that once Dix Hill Park gets placed, everything around there goes into play -- and for big bucks! That whole enclave around the old Cardinal Gibbons will get hot, and so will Caraleigh. The cemetary would likely be absorbed more or less into the park. I understand your concern about the plight of the poor in that neighborhood, but with the kind of wealth being generated by this "perfect storm" of civic improvements, there should be plenty of revenue coming in to the city to upgrade the housing choices for displaced renters (smart developers would pay them a generous stipend to relocate, which for their part, would speed things up as well by minimizing political squabbles). For local homeowners, they will make out very well, if not like bandits, being fortunately situated at the crux of one of the hotter housing markets Raleigh would ever see.

It would make sense for NCSU to coordinate closely with developers if Dix and/or Centrium goes in, as they will get much greater efficacy out of the street improvements if they do. The rail corridor down the west side of the property would simplify the process as the "triangulating" street could follow that seam.

Personally I think Raleigh is obligated to pay the State, if for no other reason than they can. Intelligent acquisition and development of the Dix estate will enable the city (or as I proposed) a quasi-governmental parks authority to pay near market price for the land, while maintaining public benefit of it. Chief is entirely correct. Raleigh is only a subset of the constituency of the owners of the property -- the State of North Carolina. Why should Raleigh usurp an asset whose part ownership is represented by folks with far, far less than your city has? Perhaps if some sort of trade could be worked out -- forfeiture of sales tax receipts, etc. -- but I don't see that happening. What Raleighites need to understand is that this idea that everybody else owes them something is the font of laziness and inaction -- for which you might end up losing out on this deal too. I don't mean to be rude, but the same upturned palms asking for a handout is what got the Triangle in trouble with TTA. Seeing a wealthy community whine that something should be done for them (even if you feel the neighboring communities would enjoy it too), is not only unseemly to those on the outside, but a serious waste of time, and a very lazy way to go about things.

:tough:

Ciao!

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