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Mount Pleasant determines Erickson property is blighted due to environmental concerns; owners blame Foxconn
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MOUNT PLEASANT

Mount Pleasant determines Erickson property is blighted due to environmental concerns; owners blame Foxconn

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MOUNT PLEASANT — After receiving a recommendation from the Community Development Authority, the Village of Mount Pleasant unanimously approved the determination that the Erickson Trucks-n-Parts property at 4707 SE Frontage Road is blighted.

Erickson Trucks-n-Parts

Erickson Trucks-n-Parts

Cement barriers are seen blocking off the only road in or out of Erickson Trucks-n-Parts, 4707 SE Frontage Road. The property is near the Foxc…

The CDA and the Village Board agreed on Monday to designate the property, which is in the same tax incremental district as Foxconn and is one of the few properties left in the area, as blighted.

The Ericksons after commenting

The Ericksons after commenting

Erickson Trucks-n-Parts owners Colleen and Jack Erickson step away the podium after delivering comments in response to their property being de…

According to Village Ordinance 62.7, the property is blighted “because of faulty design or construction, failure to maintain them in a proper state of repair, improper management or due to the accumulation thereon of junk or other unsightly debris, structurally unsound fences and other items which depreciate property values and jeopardize or are detrimental to the health, safety, morals or welfare of the people of the Village.”

Owners Jack and Colleen Erickson said they have made attempts to clean the property, including eliminating more than 2 million pounds of scrap iron. The property is designated as a scrap/salvage yard.

The Ericksons were issued a ticket for violation of a public nuisance ordinance in March for the state of their property.

Listening to public comment

Listening to public comment

Mount Pleasant Village Board members, from left, Jerry Franke, Rob Richardson and Dave DeGroot listen to public comment during the Community D…

When they made another attempt to survey the property for cleaning after receiving the ticket, the property was closed off by cement barricades. Jack was ticketed by the Mount Pleasant Police Department for trespassing.

“What are we supposed to do?” Jack Erickson said as he addressed the CDA on Monday. “What is a public nuisance? Is it the stuff sitting outside the building, is it the building needs paint, is it the lawn needs mowed?”

Blight designation

Samuel Schultz, the village’s community development director, shared photos of the property taken in March and June before the initial blight hearing on June 22. Photos show piles of tires, truck parts and vehicles.

The village shared results of an environmental evaluation of the property. In 2018, the village worked with The Sigma Group, which provides environmental consulting, to collect 56 soil samples.

The group’s findings acknowledged the property has been historically occupied by bus, truck and trailer service and repair companies since 1970. In other words, the current environmental condition of the property may have been affected by previous owners or events.

The findings also acknowledged the presence of an approximate 5,000-gallon holding tank on the property, which holds all wastewater and runoff generated there. The tank is disposed of as needed, but a release from the tank system “could have negatively impacted” the property’s soil, groundwater and/or vapor as well.

Sigma found that the property’s soil was contaminated with volatile organic compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons “above soil criteria.”

The Minnesota Department of Health defines VOCs as chemicals found in products used to build/maintain houses and are released “into the indoor air we breathe.” Breathing in low levels of these chemicals for long periods of time may increase the risk of health problems; for example, studies suggest exposure to VOCs may make asthma symptoms worse.

Erickson Trucks-n-Parts

Cement barriers are seen blocking off the only road in or out of Erickson Trucks-n-Parts, 4707 SE Frontage Road. The property is near the Foxconn area in Mount Pleasant. Jack Erickson, one of its owners, was cited for trespassing. Jack and Colleen Erickson claim Mount Pleasant failed to fulfill promises it made.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PAHs are chemicals created “when products like coal, oil, gas and garbage are burned but the burning process is not complete.” No information is available from studies to gauge the effect of PAHs on humans, but “breathing PAHs and skin contact seem to be associated with cancer in humans,” the EPA said.

The village will develop a plan to address the blighted property, according to a statement released by Village Attorney Alan Marcuvitz.

Wisconsin statute 66.1333 states if a municipality determines a property as blighted, it then makes way for redevelopment or demolition of the property/removal of buildings.

Village statements

Marcuvitz said in the statement the village has pursued “all reasonable efforts to reach voluntary agreements with individual property owners to acquire the property needed for public infrastructure improvements” since the Foxconn project began in 2017. A combination of eminent domain and blighting properties were used during the acquisitions.

Alan Marcuvitz

Marcuvitz

Eminent domain refers to the government’s power to take private property and convert it into public use. According to the Cornell Law School, the Fifth Amendment provides that the government can only use eminent domain if it provides appropriate compensation to the property owners.

Marcuvitz said the village attempted to work with the Ericksons to reach agreement on a price for land and access rights which were “required by (the Wisconsin Department of Transportation) for the improvements needed to the East Frontage Road” and to find an alternate parcel of land to relocate the business.

The village and the Ericksons were not able to reach an agreement on the price for the land. As a result, in January 2020, the village proceeded with a “jurisdictional offer” of about $1.6 million for 1.5 acres of land and access rights required by WisDOT. The Ericksons did not challenge the offer and were paid in February 2020.

In June 2019, the village also found a 13.3-acre parcel of land the Ericksons could relocate their business to, meeting the same characteristics of their property now. It was in Mount Pleasant and it was located along East Frontage Road. The village also offered to pay for moving expenses.

The Ericksons declined this relocation option and it expired in February 2020.

The 13.3.-acre parcel offer was for about $1.06 million; approximately one-third less than what the village paid the Ericksons for their 1.5 acres of land.

According to the state’s eminent domain law, property owners are entitled to 90 days of additional occupancy of the property once it’s acquired.

The 90 days allotted expired in May 2020, and the village said it continued to provide usage of and access to the property without charge until April 2021. That was about the time the cement barriers were placed.

Blame on Foxconn

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has reached a scaled-down deal with Foxconn -- one that will cut tax breaks by billions. 

The Ericksons said one of the reasons the village is blighting their property is to make more room for Foxconn. The Trucks-n-Parts property is one of the only properties left in the area near Foxconn, including Mount Pleasant resident Kim Mahoney’s home.

Jack Erickson

Jack Erickson

Jack Erickson delivers public comment during the Village of Mount Pleasant Community Development Authority meeting on Monday.

“Why do you continue to beat this dead horse, when your Foxconn big dream has turned into a frickin’ nightmare for you with this failed project?” Colleen Erickson said. “It’s real obvious you don’t need these extra 12 acres, and you didn’t need a lot of the other people’s either.”

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