Last updated on February 21st, 2022 at 10:34 am
Strauss Brands is dropping plans to build a 152,000-square-foot slaughterhouse along Loomis Road in Franklin and will instead look to sell the 30-acre property where it planned to build the meat processing facility.
The decision is just the latest twist in the company’s plans which have evolved and run into opposition at multiple points since 2019.
Strauss, which already has a facility in Franklin, sells beef, lamb and veal. In March 2019, the company paid $2.1 million to acquire the site along Loomis Road on the west side of the city.
Strauss’ plans called for a facility with 270 employees and the ability to process 250 to 500 head of cattle per day. Despite the company dropped those plans, the Franklin plan commission on Thursday did vote to approve the special use application for the project.
The vote came following a court ordered public hearing on the project. Franklin’s common council initially denied the approvals for the project in October 2020 but reversed course two weeks later after business leaders expressed concern about the decision. The switch led to a lawsuit filed by Franklin residents, alleging Franklin mayor Steve Olson had worked with the company to develop a plan to undo the first vote.
The lawsuit led to a January court order that set up the public hearing held Thursday.
City staff said representatives from Strauss were out of the state and unable to attend the hearing. The staff did read a statement from the company, however.
“We appreciate the continued support of the mayor and the members of city council, we are very proud of our expansion proposal,” the statement said. “However, we have heard the voices of our fellow Franklin community residents. Strauss is currently evaluating alternative paths to expand our production capacity. As part of these efforts, we are exploring the sale of the land on Loomis Road that was originally purchased to construct the facility. In doing so we ask that the city give us time and work with us to find the right occupant for the land.”
The reading of the statement led to a round of cheers and applause from residents at the hearing. After asking those in attendance to refrain from applauding, Olson said the statement did not change the need for the hearing, noting it had been court ordered.
Franklin’s plan commission then took more an hour of public comments on the project, which drew strong opposition on a number of fronts. The commission then debated a number of motions and amendments to the special use application before ultimately approving it on a 4-1 vote.
With Strauss exploring the sale of the land, the approval would likely end up being moot. The Journal Sentinel reported that Ted Beneski, chief executive officer of Insight Equity, the owner of Strauss Brands, told animal advocacy nonprofit Free from Harm in a November email that the company was “not planning to build a slaughterhouse there or anywhere else for that matter.”
The decision to not build any new slaughterhouse would seem to rule out the company again returning to the city of Milwaukee with a proposal. After buying the land in Franklin in 2019, Strauss instead announced plans to build its facility in Milwaukee at the Century City Business Park on the city’s northwest side. Those plans also ran into opposition from residents and lost the support of the alderman representing the site. Strauss dropped its plans in Milwaukee in October 2019.
By February 2020, Strauss was once again planning to expand in Franklin, kicking off the series of events that led to Thursday’s public hearing and the company’s plan to explore the sale of the land.