Please stand with us

Our parents own property at 1065 and 1063 Terrace Dr. Napa, California. They have owned this property for over 40 years and sacrificed a lot of blood, sweat, tears and time with it.

They were approached many years ago about selling thee property to a developer, The O’Brien Group, but were not interested in doing so. Then The O’Brien Group purchased property behind our parents land for development.

A prior development, years before, ran a street up to the side of our parent’s property. Now, The O’Brien group says they want 864 sq ft from our parents. Our parents were not interested in selling just a piece of the land. They consider the piece in question important due to privacy trees that were planted on it more than 40 years ago.

After several requests our parents decided to listen to what The O’Brien Groupthey would offer. They would only listen if it were for the full piece of land and not just the 864 sq ft strip. They do not want to see their land pieced away. The O’Brien Group presented them with about a 40-page contract, so filled with loopholes, they would have ended up with the strip, and not paying for it. Needless to say, that contract was rejected.

The O'Brien Group tried again with a condensed version, but still full of loopholes, and still not meeting our parents' needs or protecting our parents' rights. Then, last year, The O’Brien group came to Napa City Council meeting, and said if the project is approved, they will pay an additional $50,000 to the City of Napa. That is a bribe. Soon afterwards, they got permission to start grading their property.

They trespassed on our parents' property when doing the work. When told to leave, they would not so our parents had to call the police. Now, The O’Brien group has entered into an agreement with the City of Napa. They will pay for all costs involved if the city of Napa takes our parents' property by eminent domain.

The O’Brien group seems willing to spend money to get the property they want, not by buying it from the people who own it, but by paying off the City. And the City of Napa has allowed them to proceed, even though officials know that the The O’Brien Group does not own enough property to complete the project.

At one of the Napa City Council meetings, a Counsel member asked if the O’Brien group were not developing their land, would the city pursue eminent domain to acquire our property. The answer was "no." And the answer was "no" because there is no need for the city to acquire it. There is no need to put in a dead end street. There is no need that would serve the greater good of this city. There is no benefit, except to The O’Brien Group

The O’Brien Group continued stating that all they want is only 864 square feet. What they neglected to mention that there is also over 1500 square feet needed for slope and drainage, which we will not be allowed to touch or use, that they did not want to pay for. There is over another 1000 square feet that we would be forced to give up during the construction phase, which has 30+ year-old trees on there, which nobody seems to care about, or wants to compensate us for.

So, we are actually talking about 3500 square feet. The bottom line, besides corruptive corporate greed and some elected officials not fulfilling their job with the integrity expected, is that the underlying project is a private venture for profit. It is not a firehouse, a school, a freeway, or anything that serves the greater good of this city. This is not a necessity.

The city went ahead and approved to move forward with the "taking" by eminent domain. The fact that developers are getting away with taking land away from people for their own private profit is unfair. Our parents have the right to stay on their property as long as they want. Not to be forced to start having it taken away from them because developers want to build homes.

Who says that someone else has the right to decide what happens to peoples' property? Our parents paid for it, they worked and they have loved it for all these years. What is this country coming to that developers can just come in strong-arm senior citizens because they feel that they have had enough time with their land?

People should have the right to continue to own all the property they own or to sell it when they are ready. We need stronger laws to protect the rights of the Americans. This land is a legacy of what our parents have been through. They have the right to pass this land down to their children if they want to do so. Now our parents have to go through court trials and cost to try to save their rights.

I am not fighting just for our parents, but for every American that owns land. Again if it is something that is necessary like a firehouse to protect the citizens or a school to help with educations,that is different. We know that there are laws that are being worked on to protectland owners. What is needed right now is a “stop gap” measure to stop these unjust taking of land.

Please stand with us and support the “little people” of America and stop these corrupt greedy developers.

Steven and Kimberly Hennion
176 N. Viceroy Ave.
Azusa, CA 91702

From the Napa Sentinel, 8/4/06: http://napasentinel.com

... the Napa City Council Tuesday night stood firmly behind a developer who needed to take land from a private property owner to serve the developer’s new 25-unit subdivision. A battle raged between Vice Mayor Kevin Block and Councilmember Harry Martin. The Council in a 4-to-1 vote sided with Block.

The property seized was at 1063 and 1065 Terrace Drive owned by Charles and Elisabeth Hennion, who have lived on the property for 40 years. The developer was the O’Brien Group – a questionable development company who has built homes on Terrace and Coombsville Drive, behind Queen of the Valley Hospital, Garfield Lane and a proposed 72-unit subdivision in Browns Valley known as the Hussey project. O’Brien Group has a local reputation for not following building codes such as time not to work, etc.

A few months ago, Martin provided stacks of letters, e-mails and other correspondence between O’Brien and Hennion showing the negotiations. The documents indicate that O’Brien was not totally earnest in those negotiations. The developer was instructed that in order to develop the property he would have to obtain a road access. Yet without that acquisition, O’Brien is already grading the land.

The argument with this issue was that Block saw the seizure as the development of Capitola Road. Martin saw it as seizing private land for the profit of the developer. When O’Brien could not make a successful deal to obtain part of the property they made an offer to buy the entire parcels owned by the Hennions. O’Brien then came to the city and asked them to seize the property under eminent domain. O’Brien even threatened the Hennions in their negotiations that if they did not agree with O’Brien’s price they would have the city seize their property.

The fallacy of Block’s argument that this was about building Capitola Road was that the road might not be build for 10 years – or longer with a money-strapped City which had a bleak report on their diminishing funds that same night. The focus of the issue was Hennion vs. O’Brien. A member of the Hennion family called Block a liar on two occasions during the hearing. Even in the staff report it states, “Until properties to the north are developed and the associated through street connection is completed to Fairview Drive, the portion of Capitola Drive at the Hennion property will provide the ONLY access to serve the 25 lots in the Napa Terrace subdivision.” The report also states, “Without the acquisition, the road could likely still be extended to the subdivision, but it would not be as wide as it should be to accommodate various needs.”

But Block’s argument overlooks the fourth point in the staff report. “Further, the acquisition of the subject property interests will facilitate the City’s pursuit of its circulation connectivity goal by allowing for APPROPRIATE CONNECTIONS TO THE SUBDIVSION and POTENTIALLY, beyond. The word POTENTIALLY does not imply any definite commitment beyond O’Brien’s 25-unit subdivision.

Block accused Martin of “grandstanding” stating the issue is Capitola Road, when the Staff report differs.

Martin said that it was Block who was grandstanding by taking focus off the main issue and playing to the community on Capitola Drive. “This stinks,” Martin said. “It is just like the Connecticut seizure of private property so a private developer could build an office complex.”

The eminent domain seizure required a four-fifths vote of the Council. It passed 4-to-1. The Hennions only recourse is to fight the issue in court.