Gold Canyon residents are fuming over a private owner’s recent listing of the former Gold Canyon Fire Station for twice its 2006 sale price.
It’s especially bothersome since the previous landowner, the Apache Junction Fire District, is now looking to buy property in the same general area for a new station.
“They really should’ve just kept that station,” Gold Canyon resident and real estate agent Linda Shank said. “They do have a fiduciary responsibility to keep their prices down.”
Fire Marshall Dave Montgomery, a fire district spokesman, said many residents have criticized the April 2006 fire station sale, which netted about $800,000 for the district. The buyers placed the former station back on the market in late July for $1.6 million.
Meanwhile, the fire district’s failed efforts to find a site for a new station in northwest Gold Canyon have slowly pushed its property search to within two miles of the old location, just east of Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club.
The district most recently hoped to buy land at Baseline Avenue and King’s Ranch Road, about 1.75 miles northwest of the former station, but area homeowners objected. The next choice is likely to be even closer, because most of the area’s commercial property is further southeast.
The problem, Montgomery said, is that residents in northwest Gold Canyon, where the fire station is needed most, don’t want a fire station in their backyards. The district has repeatedly backed off because fire officials don’t want to pick a legal fight with the people they are trying to protect.
“Could we dig in our heels and let the attorneys that represent the fire district go to work and push that type of agenda through?” Montgomery said. “That’s not the district’s goal.”
Shank and others also question the old fire station’s sale because the buyers, area residents Lonnie and Julie Pace, are now asking twice what they paid for the property. Lonnie Pace is a friend of fire district Battalion Chief Doug Taylor, top official at the former Gold Canyon Fire Station.
“It’s just fishy,” Shank said.
Montgomery said $800,000 was fair market value for the twenty-year-old station and its 1 1/4-acre lot. He said the property was appraised and listed by a professional commercial real estate agent, and that the fire district’s board of directors — not Taylor — made the decision to sell.
Proceeds were used to offset the cost of a new, larger fire station at U.S. 60 and King’s Ranch, Montgomery said, which opened just prior to the sale and has led to a 20-percent improvement in emergency response times.
Barbara Schultz, the Paces’ real estate agent, said the couple was on vacation and unavailable for comment Monday.
Schultz said the new owners have made several improvements to the property, giving it a new paint job, adding highquality fencing and paving some areas.
The former fire station would be ideal for medical offices, Schultz said, although it could have a number of commercial uses.
The sellers are not in any hurry to sell the property, she added.
“It’s a commercial piece, and you can ask whatever you want,” Schultz said.
Voters in the fire district approved a $9.5 million general purpose bond in September 2006, $1.75 million of which is earmarked for a second Gold Canyon fire station. By statute, if that money isn’t spent within three years it would revert back to property owners.
Montgomery said the area needs another station further northwest, but it would be relatively small and barely noticeable to surrounding residents.
Still, if district officials cannot convince homeowners to abide a residential location, the district board will either have to go against their wishes or choose a more distant commercial location, which would defeat the purpose of selling the old property.
Finding a spot just a mile or two closer to homes could improve response times by 30 to 45 seconds, Montgomery said.
“If your house is on fire and you’re not breathing, or your heart is not beating, now you’re talking about a significant period of time,” he said.