For more than 50 years, Vera McCann has watched Sea-Tac Airport expand, seen the surrounding farmland become subdevelopments and heard the airplanes get bigger and their takeoffs more frequent.
By the time Sea-Tac's $1.1 billion third runway opens in 2008, the 86-year-old Burien resident may already have been moved from the home where she raised two sons after The Boeing Co. relocated her and her husband from Kansas.
McCann's home is one of 29 residential properties - most of them single-family homes, but also some apartments - that the Port of Seattle is slated to buy over the next year and a half as part of an $18.7 million project to clear out residents whose homes lie under the third runway's flight path.
On Tuesday, the airport staff will update the port's five-member board of elected commissioners on this latest phase of a $41.3 million relocation project that has already bought out 43 homes in the area beginning early last year.
The commission already has approved the program, which is based on noise studies the airport began in 1985. The boundaries were developed with the city of Burien and with the Federal Aviation Administration, which the port is counting on to refund 80 percent of its cost.
The homes and apartments within this latest phase are on the south side of South 140th Street, extending from the west side of Des Moines Memorial Drive South to the west side of Miller Creek. That includes the entire 12th Place South cul-de-sac, but it does not include homes on the north side of South 140th, which will remain standing despite being part of the area the port says will be negatively affected by aircraft using the third runway.
The port says it plans to notify residents in January of their final plans, though staff members said they have already made contact with the property owners. The port aims to have the residents out by early 2009.
Under the program, owners and tenants don't get to choose whether they stay or go. If the airport and a property owner can't agree on a selling price, the airport can begin the eminent domain process under a 1970 federal law designed to ensure that people displaced by federal programs are treated fairly.
The port offers a host of benefits to people who have owned the home for more than six months or rented it for more than three months, as well as a one-on-one adviser to help them navigate the caveat-laden rules.
"We buy them what they need to make them whole," said Diane Summerhays, the port's director of community development. "Oftentimes - sometimes - that is more money than the home they are in. If they need five bedrooms and they only have two bedrooms, they'll get five bedrooms."
Jude Barrett, a property acquisition specialist for the port, said that is part of the "Last Resort Housing," which kicks in when "their housing needs exceed where we displaced them from or if their housing needs cost more than 30 percent of their gross income."
Barring that, property owners will be moved to a home that is "decent, safe and sanitary" and comparable to their old home, for which Barrett said they will be paid "fair market value."
That would be hard to calculate for McCann, whose yellow home with green trim sits on an acre of property where she said she raised calves before the zoning changed. "We bought it for the greenery, because we cherished the space between houses."
Barrett said that when the port makes its offer on a house, it has to provide three comparable home listings that are available on the market. Within those three listings, the cost of the house judged by the port to be most comparable to the home it is buying sets the bar for the amount that a homeowner may be paid if the new home is more expensive.
For example, if the port appraises a home at $300,000 and finds a comparable listing for $310,000, the homeowner is eligible to receive $10,000 to cover the difference, up to a maximum of $22,500.
If the homeowner, for whatever reason, has to wait six months to buy a new home, they are still only eligible for $10,000, even if the market has forced prices upward.
Homeowners are also eligible to be reimbursed for closing costs they pay while buying their replacement home, with the exception of prepaid expenses such as real estate taxes and property insurance.
And, if the interest rate on the new mortgage exceeds the interest rate on the old mortgage, the port will pay for some of the difference.
For renters, the port will pay up to $5,250 to rent a comparable place for up to 31/2 years; if they so choose, the renters also can apply that money toward a down payment.
"Optimally, we'd like to turn renters into owners," Barrett said.
The port will also pay the moving costs of both owners and renters.
"It is not going to be a problem, depending on how fast we can find a new home," said Nasra Hashi, 47, who lives with her two daughters on 12th Place South but wouldn't mind moving closer to her Renton workplace. Her youngest daughter, Yasmin Elmi, hopes to be able to finish her senior year at Foster Senior High School.
As of January 2006, the port had bought about 1,400 single-family homes and 113 mobile homes, with plans to buy an additional 246 mobile homes.
More than 9,700 homes around the airport have been soundproofed since 1985.
While commercial properties are not part of the program currently under the commission's consideration, airport spokesman Perry Cooper said some businesses - such as Filiberto's Cucina Italia and the Des Moines Way Dental Clinic - have agreed to sell, as had the Burien Seventh-day Adventist School.
Others were not approached, such as the Adorable Pet Lodge, where Carmelo and Cheryl Zappala have been boarding cats and dogs since 1971.
"We've been here for a long time, and we've put up with the noise because the neighborhood afforded us easy access to the airport and gave us a livelihood," Carmelo Zappala said.
But he's puzzled that the port would offer an out to other businesses and homeowners while skipping over his five-acre property, which will be just as affected by noise as his neighbors'.
"If they want to buy us out and pay us the money it's worth, I wouldn't mind moving."
Left to her druthers, McCann would rather not move, "especially not at my age," she said, though her grandkids in Enumclaw and Eatonville would like to have her nearby.
But with the introduction of the third runway, the thunderous noise she's gotten used to "would become intolerable," she said.
P-I reporter Kristen Millares Young can be reached at 206-448-8142 or firstname.lastname@example.org
FIND OUT MORE
About the port's relocation program: 206-444-6767.
About the port's noise remediation: 1-800-826-1147.