Police evicted Gabriel and Livia Ferrari from their home at 22 Sulphur Springs Road in West Asheville Wednesday, an action that ended the couple’s decades-long battle with the city over the upkeep of their property at the intersection of Sulphur Springs and Haywood roads.
Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department deputies and Asheville Police Department officers evicted the Ferraris for unpaid property taxes. The Ferraris also had a long-standing argument with the city of Asheville over building safety code and sign violations. As far back as 1989, the city fought the Ferraris over everything from an unvented gas heater to religious signs that plastered the front yard of their home, known for its odd angles, turrets and corrugated metal. The Ferraris also kept goats and pigeons, junk cars and rusty drums on the property.
Outside the Buncombe County Courthouse Thursday morning, Ferrari told the Mountain Xpress that “the entire situation is a gross violation of the law, a brutal display of terrorism. This is against property dedicated to the Heavenly Father.” Ferrari described what he called a government conspiracy against him as two sheriff’s deputies stood nearby and watched closely. “The government treats people with terror and contempt and they’ve become Satan dictators,” he said.
Court documents show that Buncombe County initiated foreclosure proceedings against the Ferraris for several years of unpaid property taxes, and the land went up for public sale in November 2006. The winning bidder didn’t follow through on the purchase, so the property was put up for another public sale in August 2007. Potential buyers engaged in a bid and counter-bid process until the property was sold to Buncombe Realty on Feb. 20 for $155,132, according to court records.
Buncombe County Clerk of Court Bob Christy said Thursday that the Ferraris were due $122,000 after paying various fees. But the Ferraris refused to take the check, Christy said.
In the blustery cold outside the courthouse, Ferrari said he planned to live in a local shelter until he could mount an appeal. “We are frozen and hungry. We understand now how Christ suffered.”
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor