Strauss Brands’ plans to expand to a new facility in the city of Franklin face a new challenge after a group of homeowners and a nonprofit organization filed a lawsuit seeking to void the city’s approval of the project.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday by Franklin Community Advocates, the Woodlake Village Homeowners Association and nine individuals, alleges the approval lacked substantial evidence, interferes with adjacent developments, is contrary to applicable zoning, is inconsistent with the city’s comprehensive plan and violated due process with bias from city officials.
Franklin is being represented by its insurer, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities Mutual Insurance, which has no comment on the case at this time, according to Franklin city attorney Jesse Wesolowski.
Strauss Brands is seeking to build a 152,000-square-foot meat processing facility on 30 acres along West Loomis Road on the west side of Franklin. The facility could process up to 500 head of cattle per day and would have more than 270 employees
Franklin officials initially denied a special use permit for the Strauss Brands project in October amid opposition from residents. Two weeks later, the city reversed course and approved the project after business leaders in Franklin expressed concern about how the proposal was treated.
The lawsuit asks a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge to void the city’s approval of the company’s special use permit.
The individual plaintiffs in the case allege that their properties will lose more than $100,000 in value because of the Strauss project.
“It is the opinion of certain of the plaintiffs that they will not be able to sell their property at all should the SUP/CUP and the project be allowed to proceed,” the complaint says.
The properties of the individuals involved in the lawsuit have an assessed value ranging from around $235,000 to $408,000 with an average of roughly $308,000, according to Milwaukee County property tax records.
The complaint also alleges Franklin Mayor Steve Olson worked with the company in the weeks after the initial denial “to conceive of and execute a plan to undo that result at a subsequent Common Council meeting.”
When the issue came up for reconsideration, Franklin’s aldermen vote 3-3 on the project, leaving Olson to cast a tiebreaking vote.
The complaint alleges that the reconsideration of the permit violated due process, pointing to Olson’s previous support of the project.
“The conduct of city officials including the mayor strong and vociferously indicated a strong pre-determined bias by the mayor and others in favor of the Strauss project and the SUP/CUP,” the complaint says.
No hearings have been set yet in the case.
Olson declined to comment on the pending litigation and Strauss did not immediately respond to requests for comment.