A Knox County Superior Court Judge May 27 denied the appeal of Owls Head property owners who contended their plan to move a World War II deck house from the shore and build an addition was in compliance with the town's Shoreland Zone Ordinance, despite the Zoning Board of Appeals' denial of the permit.

The owners of the shorefront lot, Doug and Leah Johnson of Andover, Mass., acting as Osprey Realty Trust, filed a complaint in Knox County Superior Court in July 2014, seeking to overturn the ZBA's decision to deny the permit for the Castlewood Lane building to be set back 15 feet from its original location.

The building is a deck house of an old World War II ship, and is a grandfathered structure which does not conform to current ordinances, because it existed at the site before zoning. The structure sits 44 feet from the shore. New buildings are to be set back 75 feet from the high-tide water mark, per existing ordinances.

Justice Daniel Billings said the evidence on the record compels a finding that the structure could be relocated further from the ocean without encroaching on the wetland if not for the proposed addition, and that the ZBA's decision was correct.

In the first permit granted to the Johnsons more than a year ago, they were given permission by the Planning Board to move the dilapidated structure back only 15 feetĀ  from the shore, when they then planned to build a 945-square-foot addition. The ZBA reversed the decision, deciding the structure could be moved farther back, and the case ended up in Knox County Superior Court for resolution.

In the original application, the Johnsons contended 15 feet was the furthest the structure could be moved, so as not to impact a wetland zone behind the building. The Planning Board agreed, and decided 15 feet was the greatest practical extent the structure could be moved without affecting either the shoreland or the wetland. The Johnsons had requested approval to build the addition once the structure was moved back.

The ZBA said the Planning Board was not following the ordinance correctly and that the structure could be moved farther back from the shore, as the Maine Department of Environmental Protection concluded the wetland area, was, in fact, not a wetland.

Colin Clark of the Shoreland Zoning Bureau of the DEP said by phone in August 2014 that he had reviewed photographs of the property and the building, and in his opinion, more than 50 percent of the value of the structure had deteriorated, which would require the structure to go under a greatest practical extent review in order to determine how far back the building should be moved from the water's edge.

Clark said the structure should not be as close to the ocean as it presently sits in its current condition.

He added the structure could be moved back to at least the 75-foot limit, and the wetland area could be built on with a Natural Resources Protection Act permit.

Attorney David Jenny represented residents and neighbors of the property Jill Delaney and Claire Perry in the original complaint.

The Johnsons were represented by attorney Paul Gibbons.

Courier Publications' reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at jlaaka@villagesoup.com.