KA-CHING; the legal battle over a strip of footpath and road about the size of a tennis court has netted Fremantle council’s lawyers another fat cheque.
Last month McLeods Barristers and Solicitors pocketed $94,482.03 to prepare the council’s appeal against a supreme court decision which affirmed 87-year-old businessman Antonio Iraci as the rightful owner of the land outside the Vinnies op shop on High Street.
The council has also taken the unusual step of dipping into its trust accounts to create a $300,000 fund for any potential settlement or legal costs in the case.
Council trusts are usually untouchable money held on someone else’s behalf, such as developers who lodged a bond in case they damage a footpath or the like.
But there’s a provision in the local government act which allows councils to use that money after 10 years; the only rider is that if the rightful owner comes calling, they have to pay it back with interest.
Mr Iraci’s company Imago Holdings bought the land in 1994, which supreme court justice Kenneth Martin ruled earlier this year effectively extinguished the council’s claim on the land.
It was supposed to have been vested in the Crown in the early 60s when the original shops were demolished and the current ones rebuilt further back to allow a road winding, but someone forgot to submit the paperwork.
Mr Imago wants to build a bike shelter in the disputed zone, which includes a bit of footpath and part of a loading zone.
The State Solicitor’s Office has also lodged an appeal against the supreme court decision.
by STEVE GRANT