Who really owns those terraces?
The question keeps arising in Janesville, particularly this summer when the city’s and residents’ attention has been so focused on sidewalks and now how to deal with emerald ash borers, which will wipe out many trees lining our streets: Who really owns the terraces, those strips of land between sidewalks and streets?
Marcia Nelesen and I were discussing the question again the other day, and we turned to Parks Director Tom Presny—who’s at the center of planning to combat ash borers—for an answer.
Here’s what Presny told me by email: “The public street right of way includes all land to within 1 foot beyond the sidewalk (if sidewalk exists) or typically 17 feet wide from the back of the curb line. This is public land, not private property. So the abutting property owner is maintaining this grass and any trees on behalf of the public.”
Seventeen feet seems like a lot. If our corner lot didn't have sidewalks, our house would almost be on top of "city property."
Anyway, residents, thanks for keeping that grass and those trees on your terraces green and growing. Perhaps city ownership explains why the city can order trees and shrubs on those terraces to be pruned to maintain traffic safety and why it can prohibit you from placing signs announcing your rummage sales on those terraces.
Now you know.
Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or email@example.com. Or follow him on Twitter or