Close to a year after dropping plans to construct a 152,000-square-foot slaughterhouse there, Strauss Brands has sold the 30 acres it bought along Loomis Road in Franklin in 2019.
Real estate transfer documents posted by the state on Thursday show the land was sold to an affiliate of Verizon Wireless for $2.78 million.
BizTimes sent an email to Verizon Wireless on Thursday afternoon hoping to determine the company's plans for the property, but the message was not immediately returned.
The sale appears to be the final twist in the Waukesha-based company’s plans to construct a new meat processing facility and headquarters in Franklin, 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 on the west side of that 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’s February announcement that it was dropping its plans for the new facility, the Franklin Plan Commission voted that same month 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. A statement from Strauss Brands, submitted to the city as part of the public hearing, explained the company’s reasons for bowing out.
“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.
The approval ended 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 2021 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 the recent sale of the land.
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