Like all standoffs, the showdown between shipwright Dennis Holland and the city of Newport Beach ended with someone flinching.
In this case, the conclusion came none too late before a trial was scheduled Monday.
Instead of beginning jury selection, Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Munoz signed off on a settlement between Holland and the city that allows Holland to keep his dismantled 1916 ketch, Shawnee, as long as it’s away from public view in the backyard of his West Bay home on Holiday Road.
For the 66-year-old, Monday’s conclusion came as a reprieve.
“You know, we weren’t getting anywhere,” Holland said. “I decided this has been going on too long. I decided they’re right. … I feel relieved and happy and everything, so it’s really nice. I just wish I could have talked to the city attorneys years ago.”
Holland, a cancer survivor, said he’s eager to pick up his hammer again after working on the boat slowly and irregularly over the last 18 months.
This time he’ll be using his tools to take apart the Shawnee — he has a September deadline to disassemble the ship — before restoring it piece by piece in his backyard.
“It’ll be perfect because it gives me time, and I’ll number each part,” Holland said. “It’ll be, basically, a really new boat. I’ll use as much old stuff as I can.”
Although city spokeswoman Tara Finnigan said Holland would likely be in violation of numerous city codes if he restored the Shawnee on his property, Holland said he was informed by his attorney that his plan to restore the boat in his backyard was in compliance with city laws.
The battle that pitted Holland against some of his neighbors and the city drew supporters from across the country. Some attended a City Council meeting in March donning pirate costumes and asking that council members save the Shawnee.
Some neighbors thought the 72-foot boat that’s visible from the street was an eyesore.
In exchange for Holland dropping his countersuit, the city dismissed fees Holland accrued for violating the 2009 ordinance that restricted such projects in residential areas, according to Holland’s lawyer, Richard Higbie.
Last week, the city released a statement saying the settlement restores the “residential character” of the neighborhood.
“To us, this case was about gaining compliance with the law,” City Attorney Aaron Harp said in the statement.
Before he begins dismantling the wooden ship, Holland said he has one more project he hopes to complete.
“What I’m doing now is making a little sign to go under the boat to thank the city and supporters,” Holland said.