Eminent Domain: Elderly Woman Continues 27-Year Fight To Get Her Land Back

Eminent domain seizure laws were utilized to take 11.3 acres from Carolyn Sheehan nearly three decades ago. The Connecticut senior citizen is not giving up her fight to reclaim the land that was seized by the state for a highway which was never built.

The state of Connecticut has repeatedly refused to give Carolyn Sheehan her land back, even though she offered fair market value to repurchase her property. The elderly woman’s family even offered to trade an equally nice piece of land in exchange for the return of the 11.3 acres but was rebuked by government officials. The land offered as a trade sat adjacent to the Nathan Hale State Forest.

Carolyn Sheehan had this to say about the Connecticut eminent domain fight during an interview with The Hartford Courant, “I’d like to buy it back. We’ve always wanted to.” The 89-year-old woman offered to pay the state $57,000 for the land that her late husband Edward Sheehan was given by government officials in 1987 — $19,100.

Connecticut Department of Transportation representative Kevin Nursick said a decision about the return of the land seized via eminent domain will be reached in conjunction with the interest of a variety of stakeholders. “It’s 30 years after the fact,” Nursick said. The stakeholders who allegedly have an interest in what happens to the still vacant land seized by government officials include lawmakers in area towns along the corridor from Windham to Bolton and state legislators. Instead of returning or selling back the land to its original owner — and arguably rightful — owner, it may become part of a “land bank” for “green” use.

Carolyn Sheehan has faced an uphill battle in her 27-year battle to get her land back. A Connecticut law mandates that land seized via eminent domain be turned over to local governments and not the former owners, if it is not used at intended.

The seized land was part of a parcel that the Sheehan family have owned for nearly 200 years. Due to environmental reasons, the planned expressway was never built. Property rights advocates as well as the Sheehan family cannot fathom why an environmental study was not conducted prior to the eminent domain order being issued.

The only way Carolyn Sheehan could get her land legally returned is if the matter is heard before the Connecticut State Legislature. During the most recent session the issue was introduced but reportedly blocked by lawmakers who wanted to keep the land and use if for hiking and biking trails.

Eminent domain was written and intended to be used only in cases where the seizure benefited the public good in a substantial manner, such as bringing electricity to an un-served area. In the past several years an uptick in the seizure of land for bike paths, public parks, and economic development for private businesses has reportedly occurred.

How do you feel about eminent domain and the battle waged by Carolyn Sheehan to reclaim her land?

[Image Via: MICHAEL McANDREWS / Hartford Courant]