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Sampson property outside Petaluma for sale

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The notorious Sampson property west of Petaluma has made its way to the market, eager for a buyer to help change the narrative on a piece of land that’s maddened nearby residents and local officials for generations.

The 3.5-acre property on Liberty Road is currently listed at $499,000, promoting its views of rolling hillsides and vast sunsets for a customer interested in building a dream home or ranch.

The listing, however, paints a stark contrast to the land’s previous disposition. Known as a former refuge for criminals, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said in 2016 that it had logged nearly 300 calls for service at addresses associated with the property.

For years the land was littered with hundreds of tons debris from numerous motorhomes and cars that once inhabited the site, leading to cleanup costs that soared into the hundreds of thousands and required a myriad of agencies to intervene.

Petaluma Realtor Kathy Jensen, who has specialized in land sales for three decades, has handled blighted grounds and hoarder properties throughout her career, but described the Sampson property as the “worst in Petaluma.”

“It’s been interesting,” Jensen said. “I just don’t know what it’s going to take to get sold.”

The court-ordered abatement process, which has taken several years to complete, resulted in a San Bernardino-based receivership taking legal possession of the property, Sonoma County officials said.

Under the lien, the Sampson family retains ownership, and will get a share of the sale proceeds after the county and receiver have been reimbursed for cleanup costs.

Attempts to reach the Sampson family were unsuccessful.

The property was put on the market as a final measure since the owners could not cover the cleanup bill, officials said. Sonoma County Deputy Council Holly Rickett said the county has expended more than $140,000 on the cleanup.

The Sonoma County Superior Court appointed GS Strategies, an extension of the Gresham Savage law firm, as the receiver on Oct. 3, 2017. The mandate was to bring the property into code compliance – the same directive that launched the abatement process when county officials felt there was no other alternative to remedy the site.

Three days later, a trailer erupted in flames leaving the last two residences on the compound uninhabitable. Fire officials said a woman accidentally started the fire after falling asleep while smoking.

An off-duty firefighter and passerby ran into the main house and rescued the property owner, Rose Sampson, according to reports. Her son, Tony Sampson, escaped without injuries.

GS Strategies property manager Jan Taylor has been on the ground for the receivership since March, overseeing the court-ordered clear-out. He likened his trade to “turning a disaster into a new neighbor.”

The cleanup was conducted in three phases. The first order was taking sole possession of the property, which required a “significant” offer to move the remaining tenants, Taylor said.

“We had arranged with the occupants of the permitted mobile a kind of cash for keys relocation of sorts,” he said.

After the inhabitants were cleared, overgrown vegetation was removed along the length of the property. Four mini-bridges were also installed to provide pathways over the irrigation canal.

Construction vehicles were brought in to remove surface debris requiring dumpsters that totaled over 2,500 cubic yards, Taylor said.

The two main properties were then demolished and cleared, as well as 26 vehicles. Taylor estimated the total cost for the cleanup was over $171,000.

“As we were doing phase two and three, we encountered, originally, 750 tires, but that number went well over 1,000 discarded tires,” he said. “It was a mountain of tires.”

Before a home can be built on the property, additional work will need to be done to remove objects approximately 6-8 feet beneath the surface, an effort Jensen believes could be negotiated into a lower sale price.

“There was a geophysical study done (in August) to see what kind of debris may be under the soil,” she said. “The hotspot seems to be where the house was, which is the southeast corner, and in the middle, close to the creek where the trailer was at one point.”

Even with the land cleaned up and maintained, people have been dumping trash onto the property, Jensen said.

Despite the obstacles and the history enveloped in the former compound, one marked by protest political runs and a church once connected to a far-right movement in the 1970s, Jensen is optimistic the natural splendor will reel in the right buyer.

“It’s a beautiful parcel,” she said. “You get valley views looking out the west and privacy because there’s a lot of big trees. If you look to the east you get the valley and Sonoma Mountain. Everybody that lives in that area loves that area. I’ve sold homes over there – it’s a community.”

(Contact News Editor Yousef Baig at yousef.baig@arguscourier.com or 776-8461, and on Twitter @YousefBaig.)