Elderly Santa Rosa woman fights county property seizure


Penny Napoli and her family never intended to fight the airport expansion. They knew 10 years ago the airport would one day expand and take their six and a half acres that border the north end of the runway. They just never thought it would turn out like this.

The house is what real estate agents call a "tear down," but the land around it is beautiful.

Rebecca Ritter showed us around the place her mom bought 29 years ago for just under $90,000.

Homeowner Penny Napoli, 73, wanted us to talk just with her daughter.

"She's better at this and the county's been beating us up pretty bad and I just don't want to mess things up," Napoli said.

What Napoli is talking about is the county's seizing her property under the power of eminent domain to expand the airport runways.

The county is offering her $135,000 for the six and half acres. But tax records show the property is assessed at $406,000.

"It's been an emotional rollercoaster," Ritter said. "Our government should be protecting us and they're not, they're just trying to take our property, to steal it essentially."

The family's attorney says the constitution guarantees the right to let a jury decide the lands value. But in eminent domain cases, tax records are inadmissible and cannot be shown to the jury.

"They probably will never hear, what in my opinion, is the biggest injustice in the case so far," attorney Scott Jenny said.

The county's attorney office said the airport manager would be speaking for the county. And while manager Jon Stout could tell us about the expansion, he was barred from talking the case.

Mark: "So we can't talk about price?"
Jon: "No."
Mark: "Can't talk about what the property's appraised for?"
Jon: "No."

What he finally did say is that Penny Napoli was given two offers -- one for her land .and one for moving expenses.

The family's attorney says the expense allowance is $279,000. But he added the issue here is the value of the land.

Real estate agent Ingrid Mathews with Creative Property Services, who specializes in Santa Rosa acreage, told us $350,000 to $400,000 would be the low end just for the dirt.

Mark: "How about $135,000?"
Ingrid: "I don't believe so. I don't think you can get anything for that."

Napoli is afraid.

"This is the last part of my life," she said. "And instead of getting ready and just enjoying life, for the last few years I think every minute of the day, every hour, that's in my mind."

Trial date is tentatively set for August 6.

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