Backyard Boat Builder Sued by City

Byline: Taylor Hill

Backyard Boat Builder Sued by City

NEWPORT BEACH – Master shipwright Dennis Holland, who had been the target of a Newport Beach city ordinance ordering an end to long-term boat construction projects in residential neighborhoods, was not able to meet a court-ordered date to have the 72-foot ketch Shawnee removed from the yard at his Newport Beach residence.

With the date past, the city has filed a lawsuit against Holland, asking the court to have the boat removed from the property.             The outlook is dire for the 1916-built wooden boat and Holland. He has been working to restore the vessel at his residence since 2006, but has been slowed over the years with health issues.

Holland, who had been previously diagnosed with prostate cancer, was admitted to Hoag Hospital Aug. 20 complaining of severe stomach pains. He restarted treatments of chemotherapy over the past month.

The boat currently sits between Holland’s house and barn on Holiday Road, with about one-third of the boat taken apart.

The disassembly and removal of the boat from its current location was supposed to occur over the past four months, as part of an agreement Holland reached with the city to halt further legal action taken on boatbuilding and boat storage code infractions.

While Holland’s boat restoration project was originally given an OK by city inspectors, a 2010 study conducted on the city’s residential construction and maintenance projects resulted in an amendment of the Newport Beach municipal code. It now limits long-term construction projects — and requires a permit to be issued for residential construction and maintenance projects.

The new code directly affected Holland’s ability to maintain and restore the large boat, which sat a mere 6 inches from the dividing wall between his side yard and one of his neighbor’s backyards.

The settlement signed April 30 by Orange County Superior Judge Gregory Munoz ordered the boat removed by Sept. 1.

Holland began disassembly following the ruling, and he had begun plans to reconstruct the boat in his backyard — where he thought he could rebuild the boat while adhering to the city’s new codes.

As Holland began setting up height markers for the boat’s new proposed location, city officials and code enforcement officers balked at the backyard plan.

“That’s when my cancer took off again,” Holland said. “The stress just really brings down your immune system.”

With his health in decline, Holland worked when he could, putting in about four to eight hour of work a week disassembling the yacht. Soon after, doctors told him to quit work on the boat until his health improved, and the boat has sat mostly untouched for the past three months, sitting partly dismantled.

Holland said he wrote a letter to the Newport Beach’s City Attorney’s office describing his health condition, explaining he would need more time to take apart the boat.

But Deputy City Attorney Kyle Rowen said the city has not heard from Holland since the April court ruling.

“The city inspected Mr. Holland’s house Sept. 4 and found that he was not in compliance with the judgment that required him to have the boat moved by the end of August,” Rowen said.

With the boat still in place, the city asked the court Sept. 12 meeting to enforce the ruling, and has also filed a motion to appoint a receiver to enforce the removal of the boat, which would allow an outside party to seize control over the boat, and have it removed from Holland’s property.

According to court documents, the city has asked the court to appoint Mark Adams, president of California Receivership Group, to oversee the disassembly and removal of the boat.

Adams has been appointed as receiver on 65 different properties, including apartment buildings, single-family homes and various so-called “rat pack” properties, according to court documents, with experience in hiring cleanup crews and hauling away large amounts of material from properties.

The removal by an outside party could mean the end of Shawnee and Holland’s restoration project, as the boat’s fragile state requires slow and deliberate disassembly. Of the work done so far, Holland has removed each piece and numbered it so he can recount where it goes upon reconstruction.

If the court does not give approval at the Sept. 12 hearing for the removal of the boat by an outside party, the city has filed a motion to be heard Oct. 11 asking for a receiver to be appointed at that time.

In the meantime, Holland is hoping the judge and the city will push back the deadline, and give him more time to deconstruct the boat. His chemotherapy treatments are expected to wrap up in the next week, and a new treatment for prostate cancer is due out in November, which Holland believes will get him back in good health.

“After the chemo is done, I’m guessing I could be back to work at the beginning of October, and the new pill that’s supposed to come out should really boost my immune system,” Holland said. “I think going back to work will really help me.”

At the rate he was going prior to the cancer recurrence, Holland estimates he could have the boat removed by the beginning of January.

“I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have more time, to allow my health to pick back up,” Holland said.

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