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I-Team Investigation: Enfield seizes woman’s childhood home through eminent domain

I-TEAM INVESTIGATION: Town seizing home through eminent domain
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 8:24 PM EDT
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ENFIELD, CT (WFSB) - A 79-year-old woman is days away from being forced out of her childhood home.

The town of Enfield is taking it through eminent domain.

On Main and South River Streets the bridge is in bad shape and needs to be replaced.

The I-Team is showing why the town and state is doing this.

The whole project will make the bridge and the sidewalk 30 feet wide.

Now look at the property. It’s literally road to home. There’s no room to widen anything, so officials say this home has to go.

Caroline Cogtella showed the grapevine that has sat on her Main Street property in Enfield for more than 100 years.

“My dad’s friends used to come and take down the grapes and the old people would make wine, my mom made jelly,” said Caroline.

Inside the two-story home, Caroline has packed up decades of memories.

“Everybody’s stuff was down there. Five generations,” she said.

On Monday, she’ll be out.

This is the result of an eminent domain dispute that started in 2019.

“I feel bad because it’s so unnecessary to do. For what?” said Caroline.

Enfield Town Manager Ellen Zoppo-Sassu says the bridge needs to be replaced.

“We are aware of this bridge, it’s rated a four. That is a really poor rating. It’s not something we can kick down the road,” said Zoppo-Sassu.

Enfield and the state is taking the property through eminent domain.

“Nobody intends to come out and take personal property. I think it’s inherent in how people view their constitutional rights, but in a lot of situations government has to make hard decisions and in this case, I do not want to see a fire truck, an oil truck or anything falling through a bridge into the Freshwater Brook,” Zoppo-Sassu said.

UConn Law Professor Bethany Berger says in these cases, the reasons Enfield has provided are common.

“Improving road access and so on, that is a core use of eminent domain for hundreds of years,” Berger said.

The town offered to move the home several feet, but Caroline says she would have been stuck with the cost of building a new basement and attaching sewer lines.

The 79-year-old tried to challenge the takeover and filed an injunction, but at the advice of her attorney, she decided not to continue the legal fight.

“Eminent Domain means that the government can take people’s property for public project like this, as long as it compensates the owner,” said Berger.

Caroline was compensated moving expenses and $155,000 at 2019 appraisal rates.

She looked for a new place in Enfield, but now that home prices have skyrocketed, she quickly discovered she couldn’t compete with the frenzied market.

“I bid 16,000 over asking price and I got outbid. The third house had 30 bids,” said Caroline.

She found a home in Williamsburg, Virginia and by this time next week, that’s where she’ll call home.

“I didn’t want to move! I already got all my doctors, now I got to start all over again,” Caroline said.

Caroline’s brother lives in this home here.

Enfield is taking some of the land, but the home itself won’t be impacted.

As for the project, officials say they want to start work this year and that means the home could come down fairly soon.