Land swap proposed to fix Murray Bridge council’s ‘problem of our own making’
The council is facing legal threats from a local property owner, according to a previously confidential report made public by councillors.
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The Murray Bridge council could be forced to close one of its roads to traffic in the face of legal threats from a neighbouring property owner.
Councillors were made aware last year that, many years earlier, Olympic Drive had been built too close to a private property at 725 Jaensch Road.
According to surveyors, one corner of the private allotment extends out almost to the road’s surface.
If the unnamed land owner were to build a fence along his boundary – which he had threatened to do – the fence would come hazardously close to the road, which could force the council to close the road “with limited or no notice” in the interest of public safety.
Here’s where it gets complicated.
The property owner instead proposed a land swap with the council last year, according to a council report which was made public at a meeting on Tuesday night.
He would give the council the corner of lot 725 – an area of roughly 25 square metres, by Murray Bridge News’ estimates – in exchange for a strip of land at the other end of the block, an area of perhaps 62m2.
“The owner … believes he has put a viable compromise to council, has provided adequate time for resolution, is not interested in any other proposal and, subject to council’s decision, proposes to move the fencing to the correct boundary, including the encroachment of the pavement on Olympic Drive, without further notice,” the report said.
Council staff recommended that councillors accept the offer.
“It is cost effective, negates the possibility of time consuming and expensive legal action and reduces reputational damage,” the report said.
“This option provides a pragmatic solution to a problem of our own making.”
The only alternatives would be moving the road, which would be patently ridiculous; buying the triangle of private land; or negotiating a long-term lease or easement.
But on Tuesday night, councillors voted to delay making a decision so they could seek more information about the property’s exact boundaries.
Confidential report made public
Murray Bridge News is only able to report on the dispute because councillors voted not to keep the matter confidential.
The Local Government Act allows councils to shut the public out of parts of their meetings for various reasons; most councils typically consider one or more confidential agenda items in any given month.
In this case, council staff had recommended that the public be excluded because the discussion would touch on confidential commercial information, and because the need for discretion outweighed the public’s need to know.
But Cr Airlie Keen said people deserved to know what was happening.
“The community has a right to know what is being proposed by a certain proponent in the community and what they are subjecting the council to,” she said.
Council CEO Michael Sedgman warned that the council could become the subject of further legal action as a result of that decision.
Councillors will consider the matter again at a future meeting.