How can a private citizen buy a public road? It’s a question many have asked since city councillors voted Monday to close a section of 103rd Street, directly in front of the downtown Greyhound station, as the first step toward selling the road to the Katz Group.
The sale would allow the company to redesign the street as part of the planned arena district. It would also allow the Katz Group to occasionally close the street, which it says it will do for special occasions, such as community events and concerts.
Finally, owning the road would also allow the company to build underground parking stalls beneath it, something that can’t be done if 103rd Street is still owned by the city.
Coun. Scott McKeen thinks the sale is a good move.
“We're getting some money out of the Katz Group and that should make Edmontonians happy," he said.
From the city’s point of view, money isn’t the only benefit to selling off a road. If the Katz Group does end up buying 103rd Street, it would become responsible for the upkeep and maintenance.
Several roads have already been purchased in the city, according to Scott Mackie, manager of the city’s Current Planning department. They include one in the development at the old Crosstown Motors site along 104th Avenue, as well as Edgewater near 84 Street.
If you want the buy a road, the first step is to get city council to close it off.
“Any citizen can apply for a road closure. They can apply to purchase a road,” Mackie said.
City council handles approximately 20 road closure applications a year.
Once the road is closed, the city and the potential buyer have to hammer out a price. In the case of 103rd Street, the negotiation will be done by an independent third party, with no input from council. City administrators have said the city must sell the street at fair market value.
But a warning for potential road-owners; even after a road is sold, the city is still allowed some access to it, mainly for emergency vehicles and utilities. That access is taken into consideration when it comes to negotiating the sale price.