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The Village of Mount Pleasant (Racine County, Wisconsin), population 26,000, is a slice of typical small town America located on the Milwaukee outskirts. But, atypically, Mount Pleasant residents are embroiled in an unpleasant controversy pitting neighbors against each other.
The dispute? An outsider, the Foxconn Technology Group, a publicly traded international electronics manufacturer based in Taiwan, will soon overrun the village. While the village, county, and many townsfolk welcome the electronics behemoth, many skeptics doubt whether the much-heralded benefits will actually come to the community.
To revitalize its economy and create jobs, in 2017 the Village of Mount Pleasant enacted a community redevelopment plan focused around electronics giant Foxconn. The Village rezoned a large swath of area designated as “blighted” [see Wisconsin Statute §66.1333(2m)(b)(3)]. The Foxconn project contemplates constructing and operating a $10 billion, 22 million square foot manufacturing campus, which Racine County touts as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” and possibly one of the world’s largest manufacturing facilities. The full text of the Foxconn Project Development Agreement appears here.
The Village already purchased many properties needed for the project (interestingly, at a 140 percent premium over fair market value). But holdouts remain—in which case Mount Pleasant may authorize taking those properties through eminent domain. If Mount Pleasant uses condemnation to seize land, expensive and lengthy court battles might ensue between the village and landowners. Usually, those fights involve the appraisers’ (experts) valuations.
The U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment Takings Clause prohibits governments from seizing land for private use without just compensation. Most intuitively think public uses include:
So how does a sprawling manufacturing park for a for-profit enterprise fit within the “public use” concept?
In an often-criticized 2005 decision (Kelo v. New London), the U.S. Supreme Court described “public purpose” more broadly. A distressed municipality may formulate a comprehensive redevelopment plan to rejuvenate the town and encourage economic growth—which ultimately confers an indirect public benefit (even when directly benefitting a private business, such as Foxconn). Here, the Foxconn project is estimated to hire 13,000 new employees, plus 10,000 construction and other indirect jobs.
Development is all around us. If your town, borough, city, or state has a pending project, you may soon face a difficult decision: To sell or not? When the government needs land, it will first offer to buy some or all of your property.
Usually, those initial offers are too low. Often you are entitled to receive substantially more.
Hiring an experienced condemnation attorney is critically important. If you’re a landowner facing eminent domain, you need the right lawyer by your side to get the price you deserve for your land. Trust the landowner professionals at Sever Storey. Call us right away at (888) 318-3761, or contact us confidentially. Our national team of condemnation attorneys serves clients from all over the nation, including Ohio. We’ll help you get the money you deserve.
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