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Australia Burnie City Council billed by ratepayer over footpath on private property

08:13  30 july  2021
08:13  30 july  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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A Burnie man has invoiced the city 's council for the use of his private land for a public footpath . Mr Mauceri said he was at an impasse with the council . He said the footpath and power infrastructure was impacting on his development of the property . "When you're trying to make appointments with these people at the council they always have no time to speak to the ratepayers ," Mr Mauceri said. "So by sending them an invoice it would open up their eyes to say, 'well, we got an invoice. Why don't we look into it to see what the scenario is'."

A Coastal council has been billed about 8 a day for the last two years by one of its ratepayers , who claims he is now owed more than 4,000. That's according to the ratepayer himself, who believes a section of footpath , a public bench and power poles are on his land. The council has declined to pay. The ratepayer , Michele 'Mike' Mauceri, is a businessman from Melbourne who bought the Burnie Backpackers hostel on View Road back in 2019.

a view of a city: An independent survey found Mr Mauceri's property included the area designated for the footpath. (Supplied: realestate.com.au) © Provided by ABC NEWS An independent survey found Mr Mauceri's property included the area designated for the footpath. (Supplied: realestate.com.au)

A man who says a public footpath, power poles and Telstra pits are on his Tasmanian property has billed the Burnie council for the use of his land.

Mike Mauceri invoiced the city's council to the tune of $174,000 for what he said are unpaid arrears, and has threatened to fence off the street's only footpath if local government doesn't come to the table.

"When you're trying to make appointments with these people at the council they always have no time to speak to the ratepayers," Mr Mauceri said.

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Burnie City Council , Burnie , TAS. 6 926 tykkäystä · 438 puhuu tästä. Join Burnie City Council Mayor Steve Kons and COTA ( Council On The Ageing) Tasmania in Burnie next Tuesday in a walk against elder abuse. The walk will begin at 10am on Tuesday, June 15th. Walkers are asked to gather by 9.45am outside the Marine Terrace Car Park.

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"So by sending them an invoice it would open up their eyes to say, 'well, we got an invoice. Why don't we look into it to see what the scenario is'."

The former Melbourne-based travel agent who recently moved to the seaside city, bought what used to be a backpackers hostel overlooking the city of Burnie in 2019, with plans to turn it into a high-end bed and breakfast.

The project was slowed somewhat by the pandemic, but the biggest hold-up has been his stoush with council.

Mr Mauceri said the inside of the Federation-era house is almost done, but he can't get started on the outside renovation work and car park area.

"I got my land surveyed and the corner footpath is on my land. I pay rates on it," Mr Mauceri said.

"I pay the rates but because of the power poles, the footpath and the Telstra pits, I can't do anything to it."

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Taking matters into his own hands

In June Mr Mauceri decided to send the invoice, backdated two years and totalling $174,000, to the Burnie City Council for using his land.

He made the calculation based on the city's current car parking rates.

"I don't expect the council to come up and say here's your money," he said.

"I expect the council to say, 'look I know there's a problem. Let's sit down and work it out, but they totally refuse to do that."

He also pointed to what he considered the slow speed of local council processes and bureaucracy, noting projects were undertaken much faster in parts of mainland Australia.

The council responded in writing earlier this week, saying the invoice "did not constitute a lawful demand".

"The invoice will not be paid and we request that you desist from sending such invoices," the letter read.

Mr Mauceri said the council's response worsened the stalemate.

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"I'd like for the council to come up and talk to me and negotiate a resolution," he said.

"If they're not going to do that within the next 14 days I'll be taking steps to start erecting proper fencing on my borderline."

Mr Mauceri's property is at a bend in a main road. If fencing was put around the boundary it would cut the steep street of View Road in half, forcing pedestrians onto the road.

"I obviously don't want to do that because it disadvantages the community and people walk their dogs up here," he said.

As part of their response to Mr Mauceri, the council said View Road is a local highway under the Local Government Highways Act, meaning it owns the footpath and is responsible for its care, control and maintenance.

"The fact that part of View Road may be on land owned by you does not affect its ongoing right to exist as a highway," it read.

Lawyer urges parties to 'talk it out'

Property lawyer and director of law firm Simmons Wolfhagen, David Morris said disputes between residents and local councils became complicated when public infrastructure is thrown in.

"More usually than not, council won't have the responsibility that the public think they have for that sort of thing," Mr Morris said.

"So you'll have to deal with the organisations that do.

"Council has a lot of responsibility for land either by owning it, controlling it or regulating it by legislation, so this happens often," he said.

While frustrations can run high, Mr Morris said the best way to sort it out was to talk it out.

"In my experience acting for and against councils, the very first step is to sit down and talk it out," he said.

"Those who don't do that will more often find themselves in a legal quagmire when it's not necessary."

The Burnie City Council's General Manager confirmed that the council had responded to Mr Mauceri, but said it can not publicly discuss an issue between the council and a private resident.

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