Edmonton business owner frustrated with lengthy expropriation process

For nearly two years, Booster Juice franchisee Leann Zahara has been in limbo waiting for the city to expropriate the building that houses one of her stores.

“Everything has really gone down hill in the last last six months,” Zahara said, as she explained how sales have dropped and how she hasn’t even paid herself because of the challenges she’s encountered.

“I’ve had this store for 16 years and it’s been a successful, great store.”

Everything started in May 2018, when Zahara learned the city was potentially looking to expropriate the building located on 118 Street and 104 Avenue.

Zahara leases one of the retail bays.

Confirmation came three months later in an email of possible demolition in by June 30, 2019 or sooner.

What followed was missed dates and new letters from the city with vacate dates of Sept. 30, 2019 and then Dec. 15, 2019.

Through all the changing messages, Zahara said her contact with the city changed.

“The original gentleman had retired.”

A short while later, Zahara learned her second contact on the file also retired.

“I had just spoken with him a week prior, he said nothing.”

Zarhara said she was then required to “submit a bunch of documents that I already submitted,” which led to additional frustration.

“I’ve come to terms that it’s happening,” Zahara said, speaking to Global News at her still open Oliver location.

“What I’m beyond frustrated with is the way the city has gone about it,” she said, adding the uncertainty has resulted in lower sales, long-time staff let go and current employees uncertain how much longer the business will be open.

Zahara said she can’t simply close due to her lease conditions.

“Expropriation process is always a last resort.”

The city indicates they can’t speak to the specific file but that “communication is something that we can always improve upon.”

Eva Cheung, the project manager for Valley Line West, said a targeted vacate date is used as a starting point.

“Often times we would have a dialogue about it. Again, referencing back to the type of impacts and understanding how we can mitigate it,” Cheung said.

The most recent email from the city calls for Zahara to vacate by the end of March, but the small business owner doesn’t know what to believe. She’s also worried about fighting a low-ball offer.

“None of this had to happen if they (the city) knew what they were doing.”

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