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Half-restored 72-foot ship to remain in Newport neighborhood

April 30, 2012 |  3:56 pm

Dennis Holland's Half-restored 72-foot ship to remain in Newport neighborhood
A Newport Beach shipbuilder has reached a compromise with city officials that probably will allow him to continue restoring a 72-foot wooden sailboat that has been parked in a side yard of his home for six years.

The compromise, which still must be approved by a judge, requires Dennis Holland to move the 96-year-old Shawnee out of public view and follow the city's construction laws, according to a statement by the city attorney's office.

The agreement may end a protracted legal battle between Holland, the city and neighbors who contend the restoration has no place in their neighborhood.

Holland now has four months to disassemble the ship, which is visible from the street, and move it to his backyard, where he can continue his restoration work.

"The boat will be saved, and that's what we all wanted," Holland said over the weekend. "This is a way out for everybody."

As a part of the settlement, Holland admitted that he was violating a 2009 city law intended to keep such construction projects out of residential neighborhoods.

City officials sued Holland last year, and Superior Court Judge Gregory Munoz ordered in March that he move the boat by Monday or face steep fines and jail time. Holland had already racked up thousands of dollars in fines, but city officials agreed to dismiss them, he said, as part of the agreement.

Holland plans to disassemble the wooden boat, lay out its parts in the side yard where it sits now, clean the parts and rebuild the Shawnee in his backyard.

Holland said it would be at least 18 months after he finishes deconstruction before he could begin to rebuild.

To hide the boat from neighbors, Holland plans to move his children's treehouse and will let his trees grow. Then, he said, "only helicopters and airplanes" will be able to see the ship.

Mike Lugo, who shares a fence with Holland's backyard, wasn't completely satisfied with the agreement. He says the project has dragged on long enough and should be finished elsewhere but that this will at least get the boat out of the public eye.

"It's a positive for the neighborhood but not positive for the neighbors," Lugo said. "We, through our window, have looked at that eyesore for six years."

At times, the debate about the Shawnee turned emotional. Holland, a cancer survivor, said the ship restoration was therapeutic and that forcing him to remove the boat would threaten his recovery.

Historic ship enthusiasts from around the country rallied in his defense. Some donned pirate costumes and pleaded at a City Council meeting to save the Shawnee.

"It was never about the boat," said Councilman Rush Hill, who represents the district. "It was always about an industrial activity in a residential neighborhood."


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-- Mike Reicher, Daily Pilot

Photo: Dennis Holland looks over his rebuilding efforts of the 72-foot Shawnee. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles