The owners of the largest swath of private land left near the massive factory Foxconn Technology Group is building in southeast Wisconsin are suing to prevent the village of Mount Pleasant from seizing a sliver of the land for a road-expansion project.
David and Brenda Creuziger, who own 420 acres of land near the Foxconn project, are the latest holdouts to resist local officials’ attempts to acquire land to make way for the as-much-as-$10 billion factory complex the company is building in Mount Pleasant. The couple live on the property and operate a pumpkin patch, called Creuziger Farms, which lies in the path of a Foxconn-related road project along a stretch of Highway 11 in the village. The land is not in the main site that Foxconn has selected for its factory project but is earmarked for possible expansions or other developments expected to follow Foxconn to the area.
The Creuziger’s legal challenge, filed in Racine County Circuit Court, is only the latest in a string of lawsuits challenging Mount Pleasant’s attempts to acquire land for the technology giant. Of the other suits, one was filed by a class of Mount Pleasant landowners in Racine County in July. Another, proceeding in federal court, is now before a court of appeals.
In those legal actions, not all the original plaintiffs are still pursuing their claims. A trio of landowners withdrew from both lawsuits after agreeing to sell their properties to the village in early August.
The Creuzigers, in their suit, argue Mount Pleasant officials have threatened to take 8.7 acres of their land along Highway 11, a stretch that’s to be expanded to better accommodate traffic going to and from the Foxconn site. The Creuzigers argue that their property would be landlocked by the highway expansion, and that local officials are trying to force them to sell their house.
“The taking is a thinly veiled attempt to circumvent the prohibition against taking private property for a non-public purpose,” according to the lawsuit. Wisconsin law doesn’t allow municipalities to use eminent domain to take land from one private owner and then give it to another private owner.
Village officials’ attempt to acquire the Creuziger property follows on their decision in June to declare some 2,800 acres in Foxconn’s path blighted, a step that could let the village use eminent domain to acquire land for the company. The scale of the village’s blight designation was likely unprecedented in Wisconsin and drew attention for its use of the term “blighted” to describe rural farmland. That word is usually reserved for rundown urban properties.
The Creuzigers dispute the notion that their property is blighted and have turned down Mount Pleasant’s offers to buy the property for the standard rate of $50,000 an acre. If accepted, that price would net the Creuzigers about $20 million. The couple’s suit alleges that the village has paid neighboring property owners “well in excess” of $50,000 an acre for land.
The Creuzigers filed their lawsuit a week after receiving a notice from the village calling on them to vacate their property by Oct. 8 or agree to sell. The couple operates a pumpkin patch, called Land of the Giants Pumpkin Patch, which is scheduled to open on Friday, according to their website.
The Mount Pleasant village board, meanwhile, plans to discuss the case in closed session on Monday.
The village has already acquired 865 acres and transferred them to a Foxconn-related entity. The village said in early August it has acquired all the land Foxconn needs for work on the first phase of its new plant.Follow @natebeck9
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