Millionaire Jaycar owner in court spat over letterbox
There's trouble in paradise.
Jaycar boss Gary Johnston has angered neighbours along Avalon's millionaire's row by building a giant letterbox across a public reserve that runs down to Pittwater.
But as the case heads to the Land and Environment Court, Mr Johnston, 72, said he is happy to buy the land which Northern Beaches Council said is home to a rare spotted-gum forest.
"I would like this to go away by writing a cheque," the electronics boss said yesterday.
He said he found it "distressing" that he was being criticised.
"Spotted gums on the northern beaches are as rare as lawyers, there are plenty of them around," he said.
"Just because you are wealthy doesn't mean that you are a bastard. Frankly I wish I had never heard of the bloody letterbox."
The letterbox is described as a "tear drop" shape, 3.9 metres long, 750mm wide and 1.2 metres high. It is built above the public reserve just south of Mr Johnston's double waterfront block on Riverview Road where he built his five-storey holiday home.
In documents filed with the Land and Environment Court, the council claims it is development creep as it "seeks to privatise the public frontage" of the reserve down to Pittwater.
The council said there have been 27 responses from neighbours against it raising issues including that it is community land and sets an undesirable precedent.
Mr Johnston said he had inherited 40-year-old planning approval for the letterbox when he bought the house and land and that is included in approved plans when he built the new house. The letterbox remains half-finished after he was made to stop after neighbours informed the council about two years ago.
He said he couldn't just go to Bunnings and buy a mailbox on a pole and stick it in the ground because the junk mail would end up all over the ground.
"I have never claimed the (public) land as mine. It's the classic metaphor of a storm in a teacup," Mr Johnston said.
He said he had spent $100,000 replacing dangerous brick steps down the public block and if he was able to buy it, he would be happy to protect the spotted gums and give council access to the stormwater drain that runs from the nearby Storm Brace.
Mr Johnston is familiar with the Land and Environment Court after being fined $40,000 in 2013 for cutting down four pine trees at his Hunters Hill home against Hunters Hill Council orders. He said it was not done for views but because their roots encroached on building land and the laws were changed soon after which would have made his actions legal.
He has appealed Northern Beaches Council decision to refuse a modification application and a conciliation hearing it set down for March 29 on the property.
"Council investigates allegations of infringements or encroachments on public land and takes appropriate action when required, Acting Northern Beaches Council CEO Jeff Smith said yesterday.
"We encourage anyone who notices unlawful encroachment to contact council so it can be investigated."
Originally published as Millionaire Jaycar owner in court spat over letterbox