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SCOTT ANDERSON , Journal Times file photo 

The Racine Unified School District administration offices, 3109 Mt. Pleasant Street, Racine, Wis.


Local
Mount Pleasant sued over Foxconn land acquisition

MOUNT PLEASANT — Mount Pleasant was sued this week by residents who say their civil rights were violated by the village’s plans to acquire their properties through eminent domain to make way for Foxconn Technology Group.

The Taiwanese firm plans to build a liquid-crystal-display panel manufacturing campus in Mount Pleasant, a project for which the village agreed to acquire about 2,900 acres of land, according to the lawsuit. The 12 plaintiffs allege the village violated their rights in planning to use eminent domain to take the collective 18 acres of land they own in the acquisition area.

The suit was filed Monday in federal court.

The landowners claim their properties are being taken to accommodate road and utility expansion because of Foxconn, and that these projects would not occur if it weren’t for the development. Because of that, they claim, their homes are being taken for a private purpose but that they are not receiving equal treatment as others in similar situations.

They further claim they were deprived of a “reasoned and structured decision making process” mandated by state law regarding environmental protections because of exemptions Foxconn has been granted.

Because the plaintiffs intend to remain in the area, they argue, that move could “lead to the plaintiffs living in (a) polluted and degraded area.”

Two classes of people

Mount Pleasant offered other landowners purchase packages that compensated them seven to 10 times the fair market value of their property, the lawsuit alleges. The plaintiffs’ properties will instead be acquired through eminent domain, meaning they would receive less compensation, they argue. Using two separate methods of acquiring property created two classes of people, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs argue their handling violates their rights to equal protection and due process.

“This classification has a direct bearing on the fundamental interest in private property due process and equal protection of the laws,” the lawsuit states. “The defendants have no rational basis to justify the creation of these classes. The defendants’ creation of these classes is irrational and wholly arbitrary.”

A temporary restraining order, an injunction and a judgment declaring the development agreement as unconstitutional are among the plaintiffs’ requests. They asked for a jury trial.

Erik Olsen of Madison-based Eminent Domain Services represents the plaintiffs, who live on Frontage Road, County Line Road (Highway KR), 90th Street and Highway H. They are: Rodney Jensen, Michael and Mary Schmidt, Roger Sturycz, Alfredo and Erlinda Ortiz, Todd and Tracey Blodgett, Joseph and Kimberly Janicek and Constance and Richard Richards.

Village response

The lawsuit names the village and its president, Dave DeGroot, as defendants. DeGroot and Village Administrator Maureen Murphy pointed The Journal Times to a statement by Mount Pleasant’s attorney, Alan Marcuvitz, of the law firm von Briesen & Roper.

“We don’t believe there is any merit to this lawsuit, and we will provide an appropriate response through the legal system,” Marcuvitz stated. “The village will continue to move forward with public infrastructure work and property acquisitions for the Foxconn project.”


GREGORY SHAVER, FOR THE JOURNAL  

Case High School senior Anna Butler, 17, assists junior Will Moes, 17, with his toga as he gets dressed in the school’s spirit wear before a Southeast Conference basketball game against Park on Tuesday evening in the Park High School Fieldhouse. 


Local
Millennials, come hither: State begins talent-attraction ad campaign

RACINE COUNTY — State officials have announced a new, $1 million talent attraction campaign, using only social media, designed to persuade millennials to live and work in Wisconsin.

The campaign’s first phase will target millennials, or people ages 21-35, in the greater Chicago area and attempt to sell them on Wisconsin’s career and lifestyle advantages. It will be conducted mostly via social media including Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pandora and YouTube.

The next phase, starting in February, will aim to reach alumni of Wisconsin colleges and universities who live out of state.

This is Wisconsin’s first out-of-state talent marketing campaign, said Tricia Braun, deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

The new campaign emerged from discussions that started about four years ago among WEDC partners, Braun said. In exploring the question of how to attract young talent to the state, they found there was a “limited perception” of what Wisconsin offered, she said.

“It’s not enough to tell people that we have jobs if they don’t also think it would be a great place to live,” said Kelly Lietz, WEDC vice president for marketing and brand strategy.

And with Foxconn Technology Group planning to build its $10 billion manufacturing campus in Mount Pleasant, Braun said, “I think Foxconn’s part of the story” and helps to create excitement about Wisconsin.

Racine County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Jenny Trick stated: “Supporting our existing companies and recruiting new development to Racine County has been RCEDC’s mission for nearly 35 years, and our future efforts will benefit from a solution-driven talent recruitment program.”

Fishing in Chicago

Chicago is a ripe field for plucking millennials, WEDC and its partners believe. “Chicago’s large concentration of young people, who tend to be more mobile than other demographic groups, and its consistent out-migration patterns makes this a primary market for Wisconsin’s talent attraction efforts,” the agency states.

“After several years, there’s an appetite to move away from Chicago,” Braun said.

The social media campaign is designed to deliver messages that in Wisconsin, young professionals can have more time with family and friends, more career choices and a greater ability to have an impact, Braun said.

For example, one interactive ad allows the recipient to convert his or her Chicago commuting time to the number of days a year spent in that mode. A 55-minute commute equals 20 days a year, the ad says; then it says, “That’s because Chicago has the longest commute times in the country, compared to only 22 minutes in Wisconsin.”

Another ad allows Chicago-area residents to convert their monthly rent amounts to what they’d pay in Milwaukee, where rents average 42 percent lower.

WEDC bought advertising on a network of popular phone apps, and the ads will appear when someone goes to play one of those games, visit one of those news sites, and so on.

Another form of the campaign will be audio ads on music-streaming service Pandora and 15- and 30-second video ads on YouTube.

Wisconsin website

All of the ads are intended to drive people to a new website, InWisconsin.com, which allows visitors to explore the state’s key industries, natural resources, cultural and recreational options and communities.

Lietz said they will get more than 250 million impressions, or opportunities for people to see the ads, during the campaign’s first six months. They also expect more than 10,000 job and/or house searches at InWisconsin.com during that time.

Ads will also be placed on Chicago Transit Authority L trains — including train wraps, and in health clubs, bars and restaurants in the campaign’s first phase.

The initial campaign runs through June 30. WEDC said there have been calls for increased coordination among government agencies to expand its reach. A proposed 18-month plan calls for continuing the Chicago paid media strategy beyond June 30, expanding the campaign to additional Midwest areas, increasing outreach to Wisconsin alumni, and aggressively targeting transitioning veterans and their families nationwide.

Gov. Scott Walker has proposed spending another $6.8 million to deploy that initiative.


Local
Burlington business park expansion going to city council

BURLINGTON — The Burlington Plan Commission has recommended approval of the concept plan for a proposed expansion of the Burlington Manufacturing and Office Park.

The expansion of the BMOP, located on Black Hawk Drive west of Highway 83, would include more manufacturing and business space as well as residential and mixed-use development.

The city administrator says that the current BMOP site only has a handful of lots available. So when adjacent property owners approached the city over a year ago wanting to develop their land, the city worked with them to develop a plan based on what both parties wanted to see at the site.

“We were realizing that the city was going to need additional residential development as well as industrial and commercial,” said City Administrator Carina Walters.

The subsequent proposal would develop hundreds of acres of land surrounding the current BMOP.

During the discussion of the proposal at Tuesday’s meeting, Alderman Tom Vos said that with the Foxconn announcement, he thought the proposed development was needed urgently.

“We need to make this happen as soon as possible,” said Vos. “This looks good to me. The sooner we can make it happen the better off we’ll be.”

A combination of uses

The parcel directly south was proposed for BMOP expansion which would be a mixture of industrial and business sites; to the west is a large proposed residential development; to the north a small parcel of residential and some mixed-use development; across Pine Street to the east is a large mixed-use development.

Greg Reesman, who owns the property directly west of BMOP, said at the meeting that he planned on developing about 150 single-family units that range in price.

“There’s areas of the site that are more suitable to higher end of the market and areas that are better suited to the starter market,” said Reesman.

At a meeting in December, Walters said environmental trails and conservation space are a big feature of the plans, snaking between the residential and business areas west of Pine Street (Highway 83) between the buildings and the Fox River on the east side of the road. Walters said the current properties owners told the city that they wanted to see the development retain the area’s natural spaces.

“Hopefully it’s a balance of quality of life and development,” she said.

For the mixed-use sites, City Planner Tanya Fonseca said the city intends to use those areas mostly as residential with some business or industrial.

Vos questioned having industrial and residential in the same area, and Fonseca said that as the plans are finalized, the commission can set stipulations on what kind of businesses or industry would be permitted in mixed-use areas.

Further west of the residential development a parcel was labeled “To Be Determined.” Walters said at Tuesday’s meeting that since that parcel would be developed after the other projects were completed, the owners wanted to wait to see what development would fit best.

“They want to maximize their flexibility there,” said Fonseca.

Janice Greeter, who owns the farm between the proposed development and the Burlington Bypass, expressed concerns about how the proposal would affect traffic, schools and health care in the area.

Fonseca said the current plans are very tentative and once the project moves further along, they’ll take those concerns into consideration.

A long process

Some of the parcels in the proposal are currently part of the Town of Burlington, so once approved the owners would have to go through the annexation process. The city is also considering forming a tax incremental district for the project which could take months.

The next step would be for the City Council to review the project, which Walters said would probably happen in February. If it’s approved, it could still be some time before any shovels hit the dirt.


Pete Wicklund /   

T. Vos


Walters