Fremantle businessman Antonio Iraci has been granted the right to build an undercover bike shelter outside his High Street shop, concluding a 64-year legal battle with the City of Fremantle.
87-year-old Mr Iraci bought the set of shops in 1994, and soon began a series of legal clashes with the council over the strip of land currently occupied by a a footpath, a kerb and a loading bay.
Little did he know, the contentions history of this legal fight originated way back in 1955.
When Mr Iraci first applied to build a bike shelter capable of housing 30 to 40 bicycles on the kerbspace outside his shop, the application was knocked back by the city, claiming the space had become public land in 1962, after a 1955 by-law issued by the city pushed the "building lines" back from the road.
In 1955, the building at 142 High Street contravened the new borders, but when the building was demolished and rebuilt in 1962 – set back from the road – the city claimed the 330 square metres of space in front of the building were no longer part of the title.
However Mr Iraci claimed that when he purchased the land in 1994 the documentation clearly detailed that the disputed area fell within his title:
"When I bought the land I carefully checked the titles to see what I was buying. I never realised I was stepping into a legal battle with the city just to defend my titles."
In a ruling last Thursday that brought the process to a close, Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Martin ruled that the City of Fremantle had not had the power to act as a de facto agent for the Crown, to whom the 1955 by-law officially granted the land.
"Nothing I can ascertain would suggest the City of Fremantle is at liberty to put itself in the position of the Crown in right of the State of Western Australia for the purposes of advancing submissions on behalf of the Crown concerning the Crown's ownership of the disputed area," he said.
Justice Martin ruled the Crown forfeited its ownership of the 330-square-metre strip by failing to alter the title before Mr Iraci took ownership.
Mr Iraci's legal representation said the ruling that ultimately found its client owned the strip of land had "upheld the sanctity of a man's home as his castle".
They estimated the legal bills for both sides that the city would have to pay could reach more than half a million dollars.
"I hate to think what the city has spent over the last 20 years to try to get my land," Mr Iraci said in the statement.
"I have always been willing to work with the city. It's a pity that so much money and effort has been put into a court battle to remove land from my titles.
"I came to this country with nothing and worked hard all my life. I could not just sit there and let the city remove some of my land from my titles. I thought such a thing only happened in other countries.
"I look forward to building my bicycle shelter for the benefit of cyclists coming to my shopping centre on this piece of land."
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