Marblehead Dream Home Torn Down After Long Dispute

MARBLEHEAD (CBS) – A longstanding feud between neighbors in Marblehead ended Tuesday morning with the demolition of a million dollar home.

A judge ruled in December that Wayne Johnson’s dream house must be torn down because it violates town zoning regulations. The legal dispute has been winding through the courts for 16 years.

The home on Bubier Road was torn down in a matter of minutes just after sunrise Tuesday.

Watch raw video:

It wasn’t the outcome he was hoping for, but Johnson is just relieved his legal problems are over.

“I’m happy to be able to get on with my life and not have to be dealing with this miscarriage of justice that has truly been a real burden for 20 years,” Johnson told WBZ NewsRadio 1030 Sunday. “It is sad, for sure, but there’s more to life than a house.”

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Ben Parker reports

marbleheadhomeweb Marblehead Dream Home Torn Down After Long Dispute

The home before demolition.

Neighbors had complained about Johnson’s house blocking their view of the water.

Johnson said he tried to work with his neighbors over the years to resolve the issue, but they wanted no part of it.

He said he even offered to cut off part of the house that obstructed their view.

“I’ve made many offers. If they were well-intended, they would have said, ‘OK, we realize this was an honest mistake by the town,'” said Johnson.

Johnson said the town approved all of the renovations on his house before he made them.

He said he plans to rebuild on the property. His neighbors had no comment.

WBZ-TV’s Ken MacLeod reports

  • Clifford

    The city will now lose taxes they were collecting on the building itself,just the land now, they spent money to fight this guy for 20 years in court, that must of cost a pretty penny and will only collect on the land,great Job Marblehead,NOT ! ! No Comment,I am sure he just shut the residents up when telling them he was building another house on that site, nice View you have sir, i wish you luck with your new house.

  • Ann

    Why didn’t someone save the windows, doors and everything that could have been taken out and used again? It’s too bad the town ok’d all the permits and then turned their backs on these homeowners….but zoning laws are in place for a reason and this homeowner knew he was blocking the view of the water from his neighbors. Too sad all around.

    • VLizzle

      I totally agree!!! What a complete waste of items that definitely could have been reused. Simply pathetic.

    • Del

      You do realize that not only did they sign the permits, but each step of the process has inspectors. The Homeowner is not responsible to make sure his plan can work. That is the responsibility of the Town Managers office. They should have stopped it before the homeowner started it. They just wanted the permit money. Greed is everywhere.

  • Ann

    They’re going to re-build on the same site? Hopefully it won’t be a glow-in-the-dark limegreen house with purple shutters!

    • Morgan

      Hopefully it will!

  • bdbd

    The lot did not meet zoning requirements for a buildable lot. The guy was warned many times and yet decided to go ahead and build. He only tried to come up with a resolution after he’d built the house and lost in every legal proceeding. Yes, he put a lot of work and resources into this, but he did all of that with full knowledge that it was at his own risk. Like so many bullies, he thought that if he kept pushing forward he’d get his own way, regardless of the rules. Fortunately, he failed. This is a just outcome and, I hope, a lesson for others.

    • kathi

      The town approved his building plans before he built it. It was inspected several times and approved during the building process. Hard to understand how it got this far if he really did have approval – do you know if he changed the house and built something other than what the town had approved?

      • ELaw

        The town can approve something that doesn’t meet the rules, then change their mind later, or a court ruling can happen, and the homeowner is screwed. It happened to a relative of mine.

        The real bottom line is you’re responsible for conforming to the rules, regardless of whether someone from the town says otherwise. That much makes sense, but if the rules are vague/conflicting/confusing and you get it wrong, you may end up in a world of hurt later.

  • andyme

    bdbd is right on, too many times in this society we give in to people who don’t follow the law. not sure i would want to live in this neighborhood.

    • dan

      the town approved it…HELLO

    • dan

      snoblehead..these people have nothing better to do with thier time…people in snoblehead love to cause trouble…they live for it because it gives them something to do..i grew up in swampscott and never saw anything like this

      • Youssef

        You didn’t answer the tanispam question correctly, your comment was not saved. Press “Back” and answer the question better.Just to be sure that your message won’t be lost – copy it now to the clipboard. 搞得我很紧张来着.. 特地来留言测试一下下….果然..是啥子插件啊?压根都木有问题出来

  • ellen

    why did the town give him special permits over the years when he asked for them?

  • kathi

    I hope he rebuilds, and then just sells it to get some money back and gets the hell out of that neighborhood.

  • Joe Swanson

    It doesn’t matter what town you’re in. The construction of that house diminished the values of the neighbors homes. Any neighbor in any town has a right to take legal action and enforce his rights. Hard to know if Johnson tried to sneak one by the town and his neighbors in building his opulent home. If his offers fell short of making the neighbors whole, he has no argument. Instead, he carries on complaining about them. Good for the neighbors in sticking up for their rights.

    • kathi

      His was hardly the only opulent home in Marblehead. I get the feeling there is a lot that went on with this case that the general public just in not going to know. Each side involved is only going to tell everyone the particulars that cast their side in the best light.

    • ELaw

      Having your property value never go down is a “right”? Please cite the document(s) that back up your claim… if there are any.

  • dan


  • Joe Swanson

    Reports are that the Land Court also warned him against building that structure. Lots of missing pieces in this story. Johnson did get town to allow him to subdivide the land parcel and then built on one parcel so close to the border of another home. This whole dispute is kind of creepy.

    • dan

      i want to see the info you have that elaw says..having your property value never go down is a RIGHT…i would like to see that info myself .home values go up and down all the time

      • scotty 501

        not having your view blocked by an illegal structure is a right

  • bill


    • dan

      town ..not twon

  • rack
    • Dahlia Balir

      I find that article confusing. They describe the structure as a “garage lot”, and that he had another lot, which had an existing home.

      • NKH

        Before 1995, he owned a single parcel which contained a home and garage. He then divided that parcel into 2 parcels separating the existing home from the garage. He then sold the “home lot.” At that point, he was left with a small lot with a garage on it. His trouble began when he built a rather large house on that lot with the garage.

  • dan


  • dan

    sorry want with it

  • dan


  • andyme

    Rack, great info, I bet he wishes he did not sub-divide the lot, sounds like a person who tried to maximize is own gain without consideration for his neighbors. Looks like he got what he deserved.

  • chris

    so, in a couple more years when the trees around the nieghbor house next to the ocean impede the view again, who are they going to take to court then…Jesus Christ for letting them grow

    • NKH

      Actually, it’s entirely possible that those neighbors have a view easement – a special type of easement that makes it illegal to block a certain view. I’ve seen some very complicated ones, right down to stating the maximum height which plants and trees are allowed to grow to. If the plants exceed the height, the dominant tenant has every right to enter the parcel and trim the plants.

      But more likely the neighbors used the point of their view being blocked to gain emotional support for their cause.

  • Ed Keenan

    The Shea’s should be embarrassed, by their win…The town said he could build

  • Dee

    I agree it should have been recycled. They have had plenty of time to do it.

  • Bob

    Somebody was wrong here. I don’t know enough of the facts but it is a shame that all of this money was spent on the home and court costs. It is difficult for those who struggle in this economy to feel anything but sickened by this waste of money. This is money that could feed and house many who would be very appreciative. Instead resources were wasted.

  • Patrick

    Just sad all around. I feel for both parties; if I had an oceanfront view I wouldn’t want it obstructed but also wouldn’t want to tear my house down. And I thought I was upset when my neighbor made me move my 3 foot blue spruce my kids planted to close to his property line…Why did he build such a big house anyway; was there multiple families living in it?

  • Thank You Soldiers

    Maybe the guy will just put a double wide trailer there with a few dozen bird feeders and nice natural crab grass with dandelions and then rent it dirt cheap to some occupy protesters. Thanks neighbor. Drop the value of the whole neighborhood. But they can see the ocean and the property is now up to code. Maybe open a dog kennel there. At this point the guys dream house was destroyed. Time to have fun with it.

  • gus

    That’s precisely why all towns have Zoning Bylaws, ZBA rules & regulations, Wetlands Regulations, Conservation Commissions, Historical Commissions, a Building Department, etc. etc. And their rulings can be appealed to the Town, Land Court, Appeals Court and Supreme Judicial Court etc. etc. You can buy any piece of land you want – but have to abide by the rules of the Town, the Commonwealth and the particular zoning district it’s in when building. If everyone built their structures to the edge of their property, houses and neighborhoods would be on top on each other. There are setback requirements, rear and side and frontage requirements that have to be met. There are height requirements as well. Easements have to be taken into consideration if they exist and include, utility, access and, yes, view easements as well. It’s not so cut and dry that you can say he was right and the neighbors suck – or vice versa. A lot of things are at play in this case – if you want to be the judge go to the court and copy the case documents and then make your decision.

    • dan

      do not have to go to court the town issued him special permits to build ..the town should be accountable

  • OceanGirl

    I agree with Ann – why not salvage what you can – or allow someone else to – perfectly good doors, windows, fixtures, cabinets, etc I bet.


    • kathi

      i don’t know, i tried to put myself in his shoes… no matter the circumstances, if my home of 16 years, my DREAM home on the ocean, were being demolished, I might not be so mindful of things like that. I don’t know… just a crappy situation for everyone. I can’t believe these people couldn’t reach some sort of agreement, compromise.

  • Shamrock

    What a wacky world we live in…I know of a similar situation in another state in an area of expensive lakeside homes….in this case the home owner had been a thorn in the side of not only the town officials but also the neighborhood. And some sort of trumped up zoning law infringement allowed the town to raze the entire house and even sent the guy to jail for failure to comply. That plus big heavy fines plus even had the land taken away from him. Scavanging the house for parts in this case was not allowed. It almost made 60 Minutes but somehow that was squelched. Mr Johnson got off easy comparitively. The commandment Love Thy Neighbor in this country in some places does not apply. Some people learn the lesson that life is not fair the hard way because other people enjoy wayyyy too much power through local laws restricting one’s rights.

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