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Mount Pleasant buys out four property owners suing over Foxconn land acquisition

The village of Mount Pleasant has reached a deal to buy out four property owners who are part of a lawsuit accusing the village of wrongly declaring blighted thousands of acres of farmland lying where Foxconn plans to build a $10 billion factory.

During a meeting on Monday, the Mount Pleasant village board approved the purchase of the four properties, which were the subject of a lawsuit filed on July 17. The village said on Tuesday that it had acquired all of the land it needs for the Foxconn project’s first phase and 82 percent of the land it needs for a subsequently planned three-phase expansion.

The deal with the village means the four property owners will be removed as plaintiffs from the lawsuit, said Alan Marcuvitz, an attorney for the village of Mount Pleasant, in a statement. The village bought the four properties for 140 percent of market value. That was the village’s standard rate for small-property owners, but some people have denounced the prices as being too low.

Meanwhile, three more property owners are still listed as plaintiffs in the suit, which challenged the board’s decision in late June to deem 2,800 acres of land in Foxconn’s path blighted, a designation that could allow the village to use eminent domain to acquire land from holdout property owners.

“As it has since the beginning of this process, the Village will continue to pursue all reasonable efforts to reach voluntary agreements with individual property owners to acquire the property needed for the Foxconn development,” Marcuvitz said. “Tonight’s village board vote to approve purchase agreements with these four property owners is one more example of that commitment.”

The suit against Mount Pleasant, filed in Racine County Circuit Court, came on the heels of a similar lawsuit that was advancing in federal court before being dismissed by a judge. The property owners’ group filed an appeal in the federal suit in May.

In Racine County court, property owners claim the village has been offering inconsistent amounts for lands, proposing to pay those who own large swaths $50,000 an acre — 10 times market value — and those who own smaller properties just 140 percent of market value. The complaint argues the village paid $5 million for a 100-acre farm in 2017, even though that land, just the previous year, had been deemed to be worth less than $500,000.

The suit also asks a judge to overturn the village’s broad blight designation. Lawyers who specialize in eminent-domain law say such a large declaration of blight is an unprecedented move in Wisconsin.

The village has not yet filed a response to the suit or registered an attorney, according to court records.

Erik Olsen, of Madison firm Eminent Domain Services, who is representing plaintiffs in the suit against Mount Pleasant declined to comment in an email Tuesday.

“My understanding is everything is confidential at this time,” he wrote.

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About Nate Beck, [email protected]

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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