MOUNT PLEASANT — A federal lawsuit against the Village of Mount Pleasant regarding the land acquisition for the Foxconn project was dismissed by a judge on Thursday, delivering a blow to some property owners. But it’s possible a new suit could be filed.
Judge Lynn Adelman, of the U.S. Eastern District of Wisconsin, dismissed the suit stating that the plaintiffs’ claims were “not cognizable.”
The Foxconn Technology Group plans to build a massive manufacturing campus in southwest Mount Pleasant.
The decision allows the village, along with Mount Pleasant President Dave DeGroot and the village Community Development Authority, who and which are included in the lawsuit, to clear a hurdle that could have affected the development of the Foxconn project — at least for now.
In January, a dozen property owners filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Eastern District of Wisconsin alleging, among other things, that they will not be fully compensated for their property, and that the process by which the village has acquired the land has violated their constitutional rights.
In his decision, Adelman said the “defendants’ alleged conduct falls well short of shocking the conscience.”
“That defendants offered to pay some property owners substantially more than others to acquire their properties is hardly ‘oppressive’ in any actionable sense,” Adelman wrote. “Similarly, that defendants’ decision-making process was not sufficiently rigorous to appease plaintiffs does not mean, for example, that defendants ‘course of proceeding’ was ‘bound to offend even hardened sensibilities’ ... the facts alleged in the operative complaint do not come close to allowing me to infer that defendants violated it.”
Village pleased with decision
Alan Marcuvitz, the attorney working with the village to acquire land for the Foxconn project, was pleased with the decision.
“While the lawsuit has had no impact on the progress of the development, we are pleased to have this matter resolved,” Marcuvitz said in a statement. “As it has since the beginning of this process, the village will continue its efforts to acquire all property needed for the Foxconn development through voluntary agreements with property owners. To date, that approach has enabled the village to acquire 100 percent of the land in the core section of Area I, as well as 80 percent of the land in the entire project area — Areas I, II and III — all through voluntary agreement with property owners.”
DeGroot said the judge confirmed “that there was no basis for this lawsuit.”
“It reaffirms that our approach has been fair and equitable,” DeGroot said, adding the village has had a lot of success buying property from other land owners.
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DeGroot said the village is not worried about another lawsuit being filed.
“There really isn’t that much more that would be in dispute,” DeGroot said. “I’m not sure why there would be other challenges.”
Might not be over
The CDA has a meeting scheduled for Wednesday to discuss and possibly vote on a redevelopment plan, which could include designating some areas as blighted.
Marcuvitz has said in the past that “not one single property will be declared blighted property.” However, this week he clarified that it’s possible an area where a home is located might be declared blighted.
Wisconsin state statutes define a “blighted area” as including “an area which is predominantly open and which because of obsolete platting, diversity of ownership, deterioration of structures or of site improvements, or otherwise, substantially impairs or arrests the sound growth of community.”
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed the village was planning to blight the property which, according to the suit, would have violated their Fifth Amendment rights.
Adelman dismissed the claim saying the “plaintiffs do not dispute that defendants have not actually implemented their alleged plans by, for example, commencing condemnation proceedings against the plaintiffs’ properties, so plaintiff cannot have pursued, much less exhausted, their available state remedies for challenging those takings.”
However, that could mean if the village were to go forward to blight property related to the Foxconn project it could allow for another lawsuit to be filed.
Erik Olsen, attorney for the property owners, was not available Friday for comment on the decision.
“While the lawsuit has had no impact on the progress of the development, we are pleased to have this matter resolved.” Alan Marcuvitz, attorney working with the Village of Mount Pleasant on Foxconn land acquisition