BASS resident and businessman Michael Tsaousidis had grand plans in mind when he bought a prime piece of Corinella real estate back in 2012.
The 59-acre property at 1996 Bass Highway, surrounding by tall cyclone fencing, is well-known to locals as the former site of The Swagman’s Hat – an amusement park which opened in the late 1980s and closed after just a few years.
When Mr Tsaousidis bought the property at auction, a real estate website listing described the land as “a blank canvas” with many benefits including “a current permit to trade retail.”
Three years after handing over $600,000 for the property, the site remains an overgrown wasteland with nothing but a few dozen cattle grazing amid remnants of decaying park infrastructure.
None of Mr Tsaousidis’s dreams have come to fruition – and he lays the blame solely at the feet of Bass Coast Shire Council.
“I’ve been trying to open something here for the community and all I’ve had is three years of setbacks,” he told the Sentinel-Times.
“I was told there was a permit in place to trade retail when I bought the property, but no one at the council has helped me.
“Whenever I’ve tried to do something at the property, they make me do backflips.”
Mr Tsaousidis’s initial idea for the site was to open a caravan park, but he eventually settled with a proposal to open the front of the property up for a ‘trash and treasure’ market every Sunday instead.
With a left-hand turning lane to the site’s broad entrance already in place – plus a huge colourbond shed where stallholders could trade undercover – he thought the plan was a no-brainer.
But he claims his proposal was thwarted by “miscommunication” from the shire and a lack of support.
“I put in an application for the market and they told me I needed things like a traffic report and vegetation report,” he said, exasperated.
“Plus they wanted to know how I was going to construct car parking.
“All it was going to be was a simple Sunday market so I could finally do something with the place.
“I thought the council was here to help, not hinder.”
Armed with a stack of dog-eared permit paperwork dating back years, Mr Tsaousidis says his battle with the shire seems never-ending.
So what has gone wrong between the landowner and the shire, exactly?
Council’s general manager of sustainable development and growth, Allison Jones, confirmed an application for a market was lodged in October of last year, but says the document “did not contain basic information such as a copy of the title and business plan.”
“Mr Tsaousidis failed to provide a comprehensive application; most of the information council and other agencies such as VicRoads would need to assess the proposed use was missing,” she explained.
“A car parking and traffic management plan was requested as was a vegetation and landscape plan.
“Mr Tsaousidis was sent a detailed further information request in early November 2014. “
“This has not been responded to and, as a result, the application has lapsed.
“Mr Tsaousidis has not lodged another application since the previous application was lapsed in late 2014 nor has he undertaken any pre-application discussions with council.”
Mr Tsaousidis claims he “never received” additional information in the mail.
Ms Jones confirmed a permit for a retail premises was issued back in 2003, but it was in relation to equine supplies only.