Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:12 pm
The owners of seven properties in the area of Foxconn Technology Group’s planned LCD panel factory are suing the village of Mount Pleasant and village president Dave DeGroot alleging their rights to equal protection, private property and due process are being violated.
Combined, the plaintiffs own roughly 18 acres and allege they are going to be paid “a fraction of the compensation that is being paid, or has been paid to … similarly situated neighbors.”
As part of the local incentive package offered to Foxconn, Mount Pleasant and Racine County are purchasing nearly 3,000 acres between Highway 11, Highway KR, Interstate 94 and 90th Street in the village. Much of the land will be given to Foxconn for its 22 million-square-foot LCD panel manufacturing campus or held for future supplier facilities. In exchange, the company is paying a special assessment on its property taxes and made a $60 million cash contribution to the project late last year.
Some of the land, however, is going to infrastructure projects to support the massive new campus, where Foxconn says it will create 13,000 jobs. The projects include $134 million upgrades to roads surrounding the facility, including widening roads and dedicating lanes to autonomous vehicles that would shuttle workers to and from the plant.
The plaintiffs all own properties directly along roads where projects are planned. Most own one to three acres with the largest topping out at nearly six acres. The project area includes a variety of different sized parcels with some at less than half an acre and some reaching 150 acres.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Wisconsin, says the village offered some landowners option packages based on a formula that offered seven to 10 times the fair market value of their property, but “created a policy under color of state law, of not offering option packages to the Plaintiffs in this case, because the Plaintiffs’ properties abut roads.”
Alan Marcuvitz, an attorney for the village, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon indicating the village would continue to move forward with its plans.
“We don’t believe there is any merit to this lawsuit, and we will provide an appropriate response through the legal system,” Marcuvitz said. “The village will continue to move forward with public infrastructure work and property acquisitions for the Foxconn project.”
The property owners who are suing say they will be paid one-seventh to one-tenth of what their similarly situated neighbors will receive when the village uses eminent domain to acquire their properties.
Calling the compensation scheme “arbitrary and irrational,” the plaintiffs contend the village created two classes of people, “those who are protected from the taking of private property for non-public purposes, and those who are not because their property happens to be located near roads.”
The complaint alleges the use of eminent domain in this situation runs afoul of the Fifth and 14th Amendments because the plaintiffs land will not be going to a public use. In some cases, the land will be given to Foxconn to be part of its campus and in others it will become part of road or infrastructure projects that wouldn’t be happening without the project and “are entirely interwoven with the private entity’s private interests.”
The plaintiffs also say they intend to relocate only a short distance away from the Foxconn campus because of their “substantial ties and interests in and to the community.” They allege that changes made in environmental laws and procedures will lead to them “living in (a) polluted and degraded area with the accompanying irreparable harm to health (and) the environment which would have otherwise been preventable.”
The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment that the village is violating the landowners’ constitutional rights, that the developer’s agreement between the village, Racine County and Foxconn “is unconstitutional on its face,” a temporary restraining order and a preliminary and permanent injunction blocking the village from violating the landowners’ rights and to cover the plaintiffs’ costs.