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Placer County refocuses on regional university plan

Joint powers authority with Roseville being studied
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A joint powers authority could bind Placer County and the city of Roseville to a shared vision of establishing a regional university.

Plans for a west Placer County campus lost momentum in mid-2011 when Philadelphia’s Drexel University backed out of a proposal that would have seen 600 acres of undeveloped land donated for a campus by a group led by Sacramento’s Tsakopoulos family business.

On Tuesday, County Executive Officer David Boesch’s office was given permission by the Board of Supervisors to work with the city of Roseville on the possible formation of a joint powers authority to woo a new university to the site while taking over the property and another 558 acres that were part of a package donation. The 558 acres were to have been sold for a mixed-use development to fund the initial campus construction.

Facility Services Director Jim Durfee, representing the CEO’s office, told supervisors that a joint powers authority might serve as owner of the project lands and oversee development of the project, while recruiting a university to locate there.

Cooperation between the two entities was encouraged by Chairman Jim Holmes and Supervisor Jack Duran, whose district takes in much of Roseville.

“We all would like a regional university,” Holmes said. “If it ends up in Roseville, it would still be part of Placer County and I have no problems with that.”

Duran said the university would be a benefit to the region and a partnership with Roseville under a joint powers authority agreement would spread out the risks involved in taking over the property in advance of it being developed.

Placer County approvals for rezoning on the property were given by the Board of Supervisors in late 2008. At the time, Drexel was establishing a graduate school in Sacramento and envisioning campuses on both coasts. The decision in 2011 to not move forward with the Placer campus also followed the death two years earlier of Drexel President Constantine Papadakis, a prime proponent of the plan.

Durfee said a recession and development slowdown were two major reasons for the project failing to move forward. There is now no concrete proposal for a four-year university at the site, he said.

Supervisor Kirk Uhler said he is encouraged to see what could be an opportunity to fulfill the dream of a regional university.

“It’s really going to take the combined brainpower and resources (of the county and Roseville) to maximize this opportunity,’ Uhler said.

Supervisors voted unanimously to support the idea of a joint powers authority.

The university site is located on parcels adjacent to Roseville and would be at the center of a specific plan that calls for 3,232 homes, 1,155 more dwelling units on the university campus, 22 acres of property for commercial uses and 220 acres of park, open space and public lands.