Boat Builder, City Back in Court

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Dennis Holland covers the remaining 25-foot section of the Shawnee in his side yard. Photo by Eric Longabardi

UPDATE: A Superior Court judge declined Thursday to appoint a receiver to take over removal of the Shawnee from Dennis Holland’s property, and set another hearing in the case for Nov. 29.


The long-running battle between boat builder Dennis Holland and the city over restoration of the historic ship Shawnee on Holland’s Newport Beach property was back in court this week.

Both sides were expected to make their cases in front of Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Munoz.

At issue is whether or not the terms of a settlement agreement reached last April between the city and Holland are being met. Each side claims the other is not keeping it’s end of the deal.

The city says Holland has failed to meet the agreement’s mandate that he disassemble the 72-foot Shawnee by Sept 30, 2012.

The city also claims that under the agreement the boat must be removed from the property or stored at the property in compliance with all laws. City officials say Holland has not being doing that, either.

Holland says the city has reneged on its agreement to allow the boat to be stored at the property and rebuilt out of sight and in compliance with  the city’s ordinance governing boat-building projects on private property.

That ordinance, enacted in late 2010 in direct response to Holland’s Shawnee restoration project, requires a permit for any project exceeding 35 feet.

About 25 feet of the stern of the Shawnee remains mostly intact in Holland’s side yard.

The city wants the judge in the case to appoint a “receiver” to administer the project and compel Holland’s compliance with the agreement.

Holland citing his ongoing battle with prostate cancer, which has delayed his ability to work on the project, has asked the court to give him additional time to complete the disassembly of the boat.

Holland say’s he has disassembled the ship, in compliance with the agreement, to a point where it is less than 35 feet in length, despite a delay brought on by a flare-up of his prostate cancer and on-going chemotherapy treatments and a recent weeklong hospitalization.

“I’m just hoping they’ll let me finish this project, that’s all I want to do,” he said this week. “I just think if they would just leave me alone, I could get it done a lot faster.”

Holland says the on-going stress of his legal fight with the city is what is really further delaying the completion of the project, and it is not doing him or the city any good.

“The stress of all this is killing me” he says.

On the other hand, Holland says his doctor has told him that “working on this boat is the best thing for me, it helps me fight my cancer and keeps me going.”

Harp, echoing a recent court filing made by an outside law firm retained by the city to pursue the case, says the latest go-round in court has nothing to do with Holland’s health, but is strictly about the legal fact that Holland has not met the requirements of the agreement he made with the city.

According to Harp the city is simply asking the judge, “to enforce the stipulated agreement” reached last April.

In court papers filed Oct. 1, the city’s lawyers claim “The sole basis of Defendant’s opposition [to a receivership] is that because Dennis Holland’s physical health prevented his timely compliance with the judgment this Court should re-write the terms of the judgment in order to give Dependent more time to comply. As discussed below and in moving papers, this court should enter its order enforcing the terms of the judgment and the preliminary injunction, including appointing a receiver as permitted by the judgment.”

Check back for an update on the hearing.

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