Property developer Bill Gertos has been found personally liable for demolishing a heritage row of shopfronts on Parramatta Road, Sydney and fined $200,000 by the New South Wales Land and Environment Court.
Leichardt Council had approved a redevelopment of the building, located near the Annandale Hotel, on the condition that the original façade of the building was retained. But Geitonia, Gertos’ development company, apparently disregarded the order and demolished the building in its entirety.
Gertos was personally fined $150,000 while his company was fined another $50,000. The builder, who was found responsible for the physical destruction of the heritage façade, was also fined $50,000 by the Court.
According to a report by the ABC, Justice Peter Biscoe who issued the court order, said the severity of the fines suited the level of involvement in the crime.
“At the end of the day Mr Gertos stands out as far more culpable than the other defendants because they offended because of what Mr Gertos did," he said.
Gertos had made two previous attempts to amend his DA and have the removal of the façade approved by Leichardt Council before he ordered it to be illegally demolished.
Before and after shots from Google Earth.
Prosecutor David Buchanan argued that the crime was therefore premeditated and cunning.
"An offence involving deception deserves a more severe penalty because it shows a degree of cunning and a determination to subvert the purpose of the [council's] order," he told the court.
"The decision to demolish the wall was premeditated and planned in advance, with the full knowledge that demolition was in breach of the order."
Justice Biscoe, said he was hopeful the sentence would send a powerful message to the industry.
"The sentence needs to operate as a powerful factor in preventing the commission of similar crimes by persons who might be tempted to do so,” Justice Biscoe said.
"The planning system would be ineffective if developments were allowed to continue without, or in contravention of, development consents."
Leichhardt Council said that as a result of the illegal demolition, Gertos no longer had approval to develop the site.