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Mount Pleasant backs land seizures over objections from residents

The village of Mount Pleasant on Monday moved to seize nine properties to make way for Foxconn-related road work, over objections from property owners who have refused to sell.

The Mount Pleasant Village Board voted 5-2 to endorse a plan to acquire the properties and pay a combined $4.3 million to residents who own land in the path of road projects tied to Foxconn’s $10 billion factory, which is under construction in the village. Three properties that village officials voted to acquire Monday are owned by residents who have filed lawsuits challenging Mount Pleasant’s land-acquisition efforts.

The village’s decision on Monday was met with a chorus of opposition.

“You are trying to take these properties under false pretenses and you are using our tax dollars to do it,” said the Mount Pleasant resident Kim Mahoney, a vocal critic of the Foxconn project.

Mahoney and her family are part of a class of landowners mounting two lawsuits against the village — one in Racine County Circuit Court and another in appeals court. Separately, the largest landowners in the path of Foxconn, David and Brenda Creuziger, filed a lawsuit against the village in mid-September over its land-buying efforts.

The village voted to acquire three parcels that the Creuzigers own and that are not part of the lawsuit and pay them $362,600. The couple sued to stop the village from taking another slice of land where their home and barn sits. 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.

Opponents of the village’s acquisition attempts argue that Mount Pleasant’s standard rate for buying out property owners — 140 percent of market value for homeowners and $50,000 an acre for landowners — is too low and hasn’t been offered uniformly.

The Village Board in June declared some 2,800 acres of land in the village blighted, a legal designation that paves the way for local governments to seize property using eminent domain. Such a broad blight designation is likely unprecedented in Wisconsin; blighted properties are typically sagging urban properties, not rural farmland.

“This happens every day across the state of Wisconsin where properties are taken,” said Village President Dave DeGroot.

Two of the village’s nine acquisitions have been challenged in court. One of the plaintiffs is Catherine Jensen, who owns a property along an Interstate 94 frontage road and spoke against the board’s action on Monday. Despite her objection, the board voted to take her land and pay $569,300 for it.

“You guys are abusing authority that you don’t have, you’re overstepping boundaries that you don’t seem to know you have and for a foreign corporation that our children are never going to see a return on,” Jensen said. “And you’re doing that over the residents who voted you in, who trusted you.”

Owners of the seven other properties the village acquired on Monday accepted Mount Pleasant’s payment, said Alan Marcuvitz, an eminent-domain lawyer ar von Briesen & Roper. An early acquisition means a longer window to file an appeal and possibly higher damages from a court, he said.

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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