Fire sale: Roseville sells its fire station property for a song while spending millions on a new site

Plans to land a university in suburban city wither like a sick rose

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the April 26, 2018, issue.

Roseville leaders are continuing to bank on the vague hope of a downtown university—so much so that they’re practically giving away the public property their old fire station stands on.

Last year, the Roseville City Council agreed to sell the station and adjacent land on Oak Street, totaling about three acres, for $190,000 to the University Development Foundation. The UDF is headed by the son of developer Angelo Tsakopoulos and promised to build a graduate campus on the parcel for the University of Warwick. That plan later unraveled, though the UDF is still getting its sweet price.

Before the sale, the council also agreed to spend nearly $40,000 for flood certification, engineering and mapping services on the land, as well as an additional $4,650 for appraisal costs. After that, the council approved a $43,000 agreement to have underground storage tanks at the station removed. Combined, the concessions reduce Roseville’s proceeds to under $100,000.

Meanwhile, city leaders plan to spend roughly $7 million to build their new fire station while continuing to voice concerns about an annual budget deficit.

Laura Matteoli, Roseville’s acting economic development director, has defended the $190,000 price tag in public meetings, saying that a Rocklin firm had appraised the building for that much and that it had been “subject to a fair market value.”

Matteoli told the Roseville City Council that the appraisal reflected the fire station being in a 100-year floodplain, having prior asbestos remediation, the tanks, demolition costs and its needed flood certification and mapping—all factors that haven’t kept the fire station from operating in recent months while the Lincoln Street station finishes construction.

The UDF announced in December that the University of Warwick was pulling out of its Roseville plans, which had garnered media fanfare for over three years. UDF project leader Michael Faust told reporters at the time he remained optimistic about bringing a different university to the fire station site.

But George Titus, president of Roseville Firefighters Union 1592, suspects the fire station land will ultimately host residential development. “I don’t think they were ever coming,” Titus said of the University of Warwick. “I think that’s just smoke and mirrors.”