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Judge with court gavel

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.”

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Sari Lesk covers the City of Racine, Gateway and UW-Parkside. She is new to the community and moonlights as an amateur baker.

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