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Schey v. Johnson

Schey v. Johnson

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Published by Richard Vetstein
Massachusetts Land Court orders demolition of mansion in Marlblehead, MA over zoning violations.
Massachusetts Land Court orders demolition of mansion in Marlblehead, MA over zoning violations.

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Published by: Richard Vetstein on Feb 22, 2012
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CITEAS19LCR574
JOHNSCHEYandRUTHSCHEY
v.
WAYNEJOHNSON,
etal.
95MISe.221634
November18,2011Keith
C.
Long,Justice
C
ontemptProceedings-RemovalofIllegalMarbleheadResidence-FinancialCapacitytoPayforRemoval-In
pickinguptherelayfromformerJusticesRobertV.CauchonandPeterW.Kilborn,JusticeKeithe.LongorderedaMarbleheadfinancialplannertoimmediatelyremoveahouseconstructedonanoncomplyinglot.Thecasewasfiled16yearsagowithajudgmcntorderingremovalhavingbeenenteredIIyearsagoandaffirmedfiveyearsthereafter.JusticeLongrejectedthepropertyowner'srequcsttosubstitutemonetarydamagesandhisclaimthattheremovalwouldviolatemortgagecovenants.Afteratrialthatrevealedrobustfinances.healsodis'ffiissedtheDefendant'sclaimoffinancialincapacitytopayforremovalofthestructure.
MEMORANDUMANDORDERONCONTEMPT
Introduction
T
helotat74BubierRoadinMarblehead,createdbydefen-dantWayneJohnsoninJ994,1.~isnotabuildable
10t.
3
Nonetheless,anddespitethiscourt'swarningthathepro-ceededathisperil,"Mr.Johnsonbuiltahouseonthatlotand
CUf-
JOHNSCHEYandRUTHSCHEY
rentlylivesthere."ByJudgmentdatedMay10.2000,thehousewasorderedremoved."Judgment(May10,2000).TheJudgmentanditsorderofremovalweresubsequentlyaffirmed,
Schey
v.
Bd.ofAppealsofMarblehead,et
al.,
Mass,AppealsCt.CaseNo.04-P-1619,66Mass.App.Ct.1112(Jun.J6,2006)/andfurtherappellatereviewwasdenied,
Schey
v.
Bd.ofAppealsofMarblehead,
447Mass.1107(2006).AllofMr.Johnson'sat-temptstoobtainzoningreliefthatwouldallowhishousetoremainonthelothavebeenrejected."Allofhisattemptstofurtherstay,toreconsider,ortomodifytheremovalorderhavebeendenied,witheachofthosedenialsaffirmedonappeal."Mr.JohnsonwasorderedtoremovethehousebynolaterthanOctober4,20I
O.
OrderCompellingWayneJohnsontoRemovetheStructureonLot5ByOctober4,2010(Aug.2,2010)(Trombly.J.).Despitethis,hehasnotremovedthehousenorevenbeguntodoso.TheScheyshavebroughtacomplaintforcontemptofthecourt'sAugust2,2010removalOrder-themattercurrentlybeforethiscourt.Mr.Johnsonhasraisedthreedefensesinresponse.Thefirstishisrequestthattheremovalorderbevacatedandadamagesjudgmentsubstituted.Thatrequestisneithertimelynorwarrantedandtherefore
DENIED.
Theappropriateremedyinthiscase(removaloftheillegalstructure)hasbeenestablishedsincetheoriginaljudgmentinthiscasemorethanadecadeago,andthatjudgmentwasaffirmedon
appeal."
See
NoticeofDocketEntry(Oct.11,2011).
---__----_
..
-_
..
-._-"-_
---_
__
---_
_.
I.74BubierRoadwasoriginallyalargerlot,ownedinitsentiretybyMeJohn-son,withahouseanddetachedgarage.In1994,MeJohnsondividedthelotintotwoparts.onecontainingthehouse(the"houselot")andtheotherthegarage(the"garagelot").
See
Ex.I(thehouselotisdesignated"Lot4",andthegaragelot"Lot5").Thedivisionlinebetweenthetwowasplacedinthatlocationsothatthehomeonthehouselotmetminimumsetbackrequirements(asideyardofatleast15feet).Thehouselotbecame76BubierRoadwhilethegaragelotretainedthe74BubierRoaddesignation.Mr.Johnsonkeptthegaragelotforhimselfandsoldthehouselottothird-parties(theClarks)for$660,000(ScheytoClark,Essex(South)RegistryofDeedsBk.12932,Page64(Feb.24,1995)).Hesubsequentlydemolishedthegarageandre-placeditwiththeresidentialstructureatissueinthiscase.
See
Ex.2.2.Mr.Johnson'searlier(1992)divisionofthelot,inwhichheretainedpartinhisownnameandconveyedtheremaindertoatrustofwhichhewasbothtrusteeandsolebeneficiary,wasineffectiveforzoningpurposes.Decisionat13-14(May10,2000).3.
It
failsthe"lotwidth"test,whichrequiresthatnopartofthelotbelessthan75%ofthelot'srequiredfrontage.Thelothastheminimumrequiredfrontage(100'),butisonly62.67'wideatitsnarrowest-12.33'lessthanrequired.
See
ExsI
&
2.4.StatementbyCauchon,C.J.atthetimeofhisdenialoftheScheys'motionforpreliminaryinjunction(Mar.15,1996),citedinthiscourt'sMay10,2000Deci-sion[8LCR142)at6,16(Kilborn,C.J.)andtheAppealsCourt'saffirmanceoftheJudgmentorderingremovalofthehouse.
Schey
v.
Bd.ofAppealsofMarblehead,etal.,
Mass.AppealsCt.CaseNo.04-P-1619,66Mass.App.Ct.II12,Memorandum
&
OrderPursuanttoRuleI:28at5-6(Jun.16,2006).AtthetimeofJudgeCauchon'swarning,constructionofthehousehadnotyetstarted.Evensitepreparationhadjustbegunthedaybefore(March14,1996).5.Mr.Johnson'spropertyisbetweenplaintiffJohnandRuthSchey'shomeandthewater,andtheimpactontheSeheysofthehouseMr.Johnsonbuiltissignifi-cant.Mr.Johnsonbuilthishousetothemaximumheight(35')andtheminimumsideandrear-yardsetbacks(15')allowedbythezoningbylaw,andplaceditonthelotinthelocationwiththemaximumimpactontheSchcys'oceanviews.
See
Ex.2(sidesetback:rearsetback;bldgheight;"required"v."existing")andEx.I(the"viewcasement"reservedbyMr.JohnsoninfavorofLot5(whichhe.re-tained)istheviewtowardsthewater).6.TheJudgmentgaveMr.Johnsona"reasonableopportunitytoseekrcIiefwhichwouldbring[thegaragelot)intocompliance."Thereafter.Mr.Johnsonappliedforaspecialpermitforthecontinuedexistenceofhishouseonanon-conforminglot.ThatapplicationwasdeniedbytheMarbleheadZoningBoardofAppeals,whosedenialwasupheldbythiscourt,
Johnson
v,
MarbleheadZoningBd.
of
Appeals,
Case.No.00MISe.268575(CWT),DecisionandJudgment(Sept24,2009)[17LCR588)andaffirmedbytheAppealsCourt,
Johnson
v.
MarbleheadZoningBd.
of
Appeals,
Mass.AppealsCt.CaseNo.10-P-182,78Mass.App.Ct.1124(Fcb.4,2011).Peti-tionsforchangestothezoningcodethatwouldallowthehousetoremainhavelike-wisefailedtopassTownMeeting.7.AstheAppealsCourtnoted,"Werecognize,asdidthetrialjudge,thatthere-sultingorderforJohnsontoremovethestructuremayappearharshonthesur-face.However,wearealsomindfulthatJohnsonwaswarnedbyanotherLandCourtjudge,ratherearlyduringtheprotractedproceedings,thatfurtherconstruc-tionwouldbeathisownperil.Thatisariskhechosetotake."Memorandum
&
OrderPursuanttoRuleI:28at5-6(Jun.16,2006),
8.
See
note6,
supra.
9.
See
OrderCompellingWayneJohnsontoRemovetheStructureonLot5ByOctober4,2010at1-3(Aug.2,2010)(Trombly,
L)
(summarizinghistoryofor-dersinthiscase);
Scheyv,
Bd.ofAppealsofMarblehead,
Mass.AppealsCt.CaseNo.IO-P-1475.80Mass.App.Ct.1103,MemorandumandOrderPursuanttoRuleI:28(Aug.10,2011)(whichincluded,
interalia.
theassessmentofappeI-lateattorneysfeesagainstMr.Johnson);
Schey
v.
Bd.
of
Appealsa/Marblehead,
Mass.AppealsCt.CaseNo.10-P-I714,80Mass.App.Ct.1103,MemorandumandOrderPursuanttoRuleI:28(Aug.10,2011).10.[Seenextpage.]
 
LandCourtDecisions-Zu.l
l
Volume19
CITEAS19LCR575
Mr.Johnson'sseconddefenseishisassertionthatremovalofthehousewouldviolatethecovenantsinhismortgages.Thattoohasnomerit.Themortgages(bothwithWellsFargoBank-onetosecurea30-yearpromissorynote,thesecondaso-called"equitylineofcredit")wereplacedonthepropertyinJune2005,tenyears
after
thislawsuitcommencedandfiveyears
after
theJudg-mentorderingremovalwasentered.Mr.JohnsontestifiedthathefullyinformedWellsFargoofthelawsuitandJudgmentpriortothemakingofthosemortgages.Moreover,WellsFargowasgivennoticeofthecontempthearinganditsopportunitytoattendandpresentwhatevertestimonyandargumentsitwished,butex-presslydeclinedtodo
SO.1I
Forthoseandotherreasons,themort-gagesarenodefensetotheremoval
order."
Mr.Johnson'sthirddefenseishisassertedinabilitytocomplywiththeorder-specifically,hisclaimthathelacksthefinancialresourcesnecessarytopayforremovalofthehouse.Atrialwasheldbeforemeonthemeritsofthatdefense.Basedonthetesti-monyandexhibitsadmittedintoevidenceinconnectionwiththatproceeding,myassessmentofthecredibility,weight,andin-ferencestobedrawnfromthatevidence,andasmorefullysetforthbelow,Ifindandruleasfollows.
FactsandAnalysis
ThefactssetforthbelowareasIfindthemaftertrial.
(
Mr.Johnson-currentlyasingleman,inhisearly70's,withnodependentsandnodivorce-relatedobligations-hashad,andcontinuestohave,alongandsuccessfulcareerasaninvestmentadvisor.Hisgrossincomefromthatemploymentin20I0was$117,137.26,13anditcontinuessubstantiallyatthatleveltoday.Inaddition,hereceivesapproximately$20,739.68peryearindistributionsfromaMerrillLynch/UBSretirementfund,$27,007.24peryearfromSocialSecurity,andhastherighttowithdrawhowevermuchhepleasesfromhisIRA(currentbal-ance,$533,170.45)andtwo401(k)accounts(currentbalance,$67,240.05).14(TrialEx.5).Togivethemmaximumprotectionfromcreditors,15Mr.JohnsonhasbeencarefultokeephismonetaryassetsinhisIRAand401(k)'s,continuingannuallytocontributethemaximumamountallowabletothoseaccounts($20,665.16in2010)andre-tainingonly$4744.45inhischeckingaccountand"cashon
(
10.Seealso
themanyorders,bothatthetrialandappellatelevels,re-affirmingsuchrelief.(n.9,
supra).
II.
See
letterfromcounselforWellsFargo(Oct.17,2011),markedasExhibit13atthecontempttrial.
12.See.e.g.•Bevilacqua
v.
Rodriguez;
460Mass.762(2011).reaffirmingthatagrantorcanonlyconveythetitlehepossesses.Thepropertywassubjecttothecourt'sMay10,2000JudgmentorderingremovaloftheillegalstructureatthetimetheWellsFargomortgagesweregranted.13.2010W-2,includedaspartofTrialEx.5.14.Hehaswithdrawn$20,000thusfarthisyearfromhisIRAand,inaddition,borrowed$64,250.13fromhis40I(k)accountsin20I
O.
Thoseamountsarenotincludedinthe"currentbalance"figureslistedabove.15.
SeeG.L.
c.235,§34A.
hand."(TrialEx.5).AlmostallofthemoneytakenfromhisIRAand40I(k)'shasbeenstructuredasloansratherthandistribu-tions,thusretaining"protected"statusuponrepayment.16Inlightofthecourt'sorderthatthehouseberemovedanddespitecontin-uingtolivethere,heintentionallystoppedpayingbothhismort-gageandpropertytaxesinJuly2010(together,a$56,250.48peryearexpense)andhaseithertransferredthatmoneytohisIRAand40I(k)sorspentitelsewhere.(TrialEx.5).Sofarasthere-cordshows,hehasnotcutbackonexpendituresforvacations,entertainment,hissailboat,orgiftstohisadultchildren.Mr.Johnson'sattemptstoshieldhisassetshavegoneevenfur-ther.Thehousewasbuiltwithaconstructionloanof$435,000.InJune2005,fiveyears
after
theJudgmentorderingremovalwasentered,Mr.Johnsonre-financedwiththemortgagesfromWellsFargoBankreferencedabove.Thosemortgageshaveacurrentbalanceof$640,000.
It
islikelythatmuch,ifnotall,ofthatextra$205,000hasbeentransferredovertimetohisIRAand40I(k)'sbypayingexpensesthatotherwisewouldhavecornefromhisregularincome.!"Removingthehouseisarelativelystraightforwardtask.
It
in-volvesthestructure'sdemolition,theremovalofdebris,andtherestorationofthelandtograde.18Thereis100feetoffrontageontheroadandapaveddrivewayleadingdirectlytothehouse,soaccessisnotaproblem.Thecostwillbelessthan$50,000.
See
TrialEx.11($38,000);TrialEx.IO($42,120).19Mr.Johnsondoesnotwanttoincurthisexpenseandhasmadetwoproposals,neitherofwhichisrealistic.Thefirstishisrequest,made
forthefirsttime
onthedayofthecontempttrial(sixteenyearsafterthiscasewasfiledandoverelevenyearsfromthetimetheJudgmentorderingremovalwasentered),thathebeallowedanopportunitytoapproachhisneighborontheotherside(theClarks)andconvincethemtodiguptheirhouse,putitonrisers,moveitatleast13feetuphilltotheright,placeitonanewlyconstructedfoundationinthatlocation,andsellhimenoughofthelandwherethehouse
used
tobetomakehislotconforming
(i.e.,
increaseitswidthtotherequired100feet).Thisismagicalthinkingatbestandacynicalattemptatfurtherdelayatworst.
First,
itisuntimelyandprejudicialtotheScheys.Mr.Johnsonhashadoverelevenyearstoexplorethispossibility,andhasnotdoneso.
Second,
itiscompletelyincon-sistentwithhisprofessedlackoffunds.IfMr.Johnsonhasthe
16.See
note14,
supra.
17.Asnotedabove,Mr.Johnson'spracticehasbeentocontributethemaximumamountallowabletohisIRAand401(kj's,some$20,000peryear.Toobtainthemaximumtaxbenefit(retirementcontributions,tothemaximumallowed,areex-cludedfromtaxableincome),thecontributionsweremadefromhisjob-relatedincome.
See
the2010W-2,attachedaspartofTrialEx.5.18.Thereisanissueofwhetherconcretefromthefoundationmustberemovedorcanbeleftinplaceandfilledover,butthetownwillhaveananswertothatquestion.Mr.Johnsonhasnotinquiredtodate.19.Mr.Johnsondidnotcallthecompaniesthatmadethesetwobidstothewit-nessstand,choosinginsteadtopresentthetestimonyofDanielTremblaywhosebidwasinexcessof$150,000.WhyMr.Tremblay'sfigurewasthreetimesashighastheothertwowasnotsatisfactorilyexplained.Havingheardthetesti-mony,Ifindthatthelowerfiguresaremorelikelythetrueones.Regardless,Mr.Johnsonhasmorethansufficientresourcestopaythecostofremoval.
 
CITEAS19LCR576
moneytopaytheClarks,hehasthemoneytopaythecostofde-molitionandremoval.
Third,
itisnearlyimpossibletobelievethattheClarkswouldeveragreetothis.Atbest,evenifallgoessmoothly,itinvolves
(1)
thelossofuseoftheirhomeforthetimeinvolvedindiggingitup,transportingit,andre-attachingittoanewfoundation,(2)thecostandinconvenienceofmovingandstoringitscontents,(3)thecostandinconvenienceoflivingelse-whereduringtheprocess,(4)thepossibilityofdamagetoboththehouseanditscontentsasaresultofthemoves,and(5)thelossofalargepartoftheiryard(thepartMr.Johnsonseekstobuy).Notleast,itinvolvestrustingMr.Johnsontotimelypaythebillssinceitwouldbeadisasterifthisworkwasstoppedmid-stream.AndwhatisinitfortheClarks?Indeed,iftheyagree,theylosethebenefitofavacantlotnextdoor(theJohnsonlotonceitshousehasbeenremoved)withtheadditionallightandairitwouldprovide.Thisrequestisthus
DENIED.
Mr.Johnson'ssecondrequestisfortheopportunitytosellhishouse,"asis,whereis",toaprospectivebuyerwhowouldthenmoveit,atthebuyer'sexpense,toanewlocation.Thatrequestis
DENIED
forthefollowingreasons.
First,
asisclearfromthetestimonyatthecontempttrial,noonewillenterintosuchanagreementwithouttheapprovalofMr.Johnson'smortgagee,WellsFargo,andwhatamountstoacompletewrite-offofitsmortgageinterestinthehouse.Thisseemsdoubtfuland,attheleast,willtakeaconsiderableamountoftime.i"
Second,
againasmadeclearfromthecontempttrialtestimony,movingahouseisacomplexprocess,involvingmultiplepermits,policedetails,there-locationofutilitypolesandlines,andthecuttingoftreesandlimbsthatmayobstructitspassageasitproceedsoverthenarrowstreetsofMarblehead.Inthisparticularcase,sincetheJohnsonhouseissoclosetotheClarks'homeandproperty,damagetotheClarks'driveway,lawnandtreesfromthelargecranesandtrucksusedintheliftingandmovingprocessisanearcertainty,anddamagetotheirhousearealpossibility.Thus,anagreementwiththeClarksisacriticalcomponentofanyrelocation.Noonewillbuythehouseuntilalltheseassurancesareinplaceand,again,whywouldtheClarksagree?
Third,
andmostimportantly,tofur-therentertainthisrequest(whichhaspreviouslybeenproposedbutneveracteduponbyMr.Johnson)isonceagaintodelaytheScheysthebenefitofthejudgmentthey'vereceived,andtoaddadditionalsupervisoryburdenstothiscourt.Giventhehistoryofthiscase,itwouldbeunconscionabletodoeitherandIdeclinetodoso.Ordershavebeenenteredandaffirmed,multipletimes,fortheremovalofthisillegalstructure,anditislongpasttimetodoso.Whatremainsistheissuethatpromptedthecontempttrial.DoesMr.Johnsonhavethefinancialresourcestocomplywiththere-movalorder?Hisincomeissubstantial-approximatelyS165,000peryear(gross),evenbeforehewithdrawsanyfundsfromhisIRAor401(k)'s.ButMr.Johnsoncontendsthattodirecthimtopayanyofthatincometowardsthecostofthehousere-moval,ortogarnishorattachittoensurethathedoes,"forces"
JOHNSCHEYandRUTHSCHEY
himtomakewithdrawalsfromhisIRAand40I(k)'sandthusim-properlyinvadesanotherwiseprotectedasset.
See
GL.
c.235,
§
34A.Statedotherwise,Mr.Johnsonwantstohavehiscakeandeatittoo.Thisisnotthelaw,andcertainlynotonthefactsofthiscase.Tobeginwith,apartymaynotassertclaimsofstatutoryexemp-tionpursuantto
GL.
c.235,§34Aiftodosowouldrewardhisdeliberateandcontinuingeffortstoavoidcomplyingwithcourtorders.
SeeSommerv.Maharaj,
451Mass.615,619-22(2008).Suchisthecasehere.Judgmentorderingremovalwasenteredoverelevenyearsago.EachandeveryoneofMr.Johnson'snu-merousattemptstoavoiditsdirectionshasbeenrejectedbythiscourt,bytheappellatecourts,bytheMarbleheadZoningBoardofAppeals,andbytheMarbleheadTownMeeting.NotonlyhasMr.Johnson
never
setasidethefundstocomplywiththejudg-mentdespiteearningoverSl,OOO,OOO,receivinghundredsofthousandsmoreinretirementdistributionsandsocialsecuritypayments,andtakinganadditionalS205,000fromthepropertythroughrefinancingsincethattime(May2000).Hehasactively
used
thoseyearstodivertasmuchaspossibletohisIRAand40I(k)swiththeintent,astheevidenceshows,toassertthemasashield.Thelawdoesnotpermitthis.Anditcertainlydoesnotpermitthiswhere,ashere,Mr.Johnsonisclearlywillingtoac-cessandusethoseassetswhenitserveshispurposes(hispro-posaltomovetheClarks'houseandpurchasepartoftheirland,discussedabove)andparticularlywhere,ashere,Mr.Johnsonpresentlyhasover$600,000inhisIRA/401(k)accounts.Payingfordemolitionandremovalwillnotmakehimapauper,norma-teriallyaffecthislifestyle.Inthesecircumstances,thiscourthastheauthoritytodirectthatIRAl401(k)fundsbeusedtocomplywiththedemolitionandremovalorder.
SeeSommer,supra.
Idoso,inwhateveramountprovesnecessary.Next,evenif
GL.
c.235,§34A
is
applicable,itonlyprotectscontributionswithinthepastfiveyearstoamaximumof7%ofthejudgmentdebtor'sincomeoverthatperiodoftime.If,astheevidencesuggests,Mr.Johnsonhasbeenearningandcontribut-inginthesameamountsas2010,over$9,000peryearis"unpro-tected"bythestatute,foratotalofS45,500.
21
Ifthedemolition,removalandre-gradingbidsproveaccurate,thisissufficienttoeitherpaytheircostorasubstantialpartofthatcost,therestcom-ingfromMr.Johnson'sincome.Third,asjustnoted,Mr.Johnson'scurrentincome(nearlyS165,000,gross)ismorethansufficienttosupportpaymentofthecostofremoval,particularlywhenhehasceasedpayinghismortgageandtaxes(together,atotalofS56,250.48peryear)andthushasthatsumathisdisposal.
Conclusion
Sixteenyearsafterfiling,elevenyearsafterentryofjudgment,fiveyearsafterthatjudgmentwasaffirmed,andafterallother
20.See
TrialEx.13(letterfromcounselforWellsFargo).21.Aspreviouslynoted,Mr.lohnson'stotalannualincomefromallsourcesisapproximately$165,000peryear.Sevenpercentofthatamountis$11,541.89.Mr.Johnsonhasbeencontributing$20,665peryeartohisretirementaccounts.Thedifferenceisthusapproximately$9,I00peryear,or$45,500intotalforthepastfiveyears.

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