MOUNT PLEASANT — Village trustees Monday voted to allow the leasing of portions of the Foxconn development area to local farmers.
The board voted in favor of leasing 966 acres in Areas II and III to Tom Fliess Jr. for $180 per acre for a total of $173,000; and 50 acres in Area III to Joe Cramer, for $180 per acre for a total of $9,000.
Area II is located south of Highway 11, east of Interstate 94, West of Highway H and north of Braun Road. Area III is located south of Braun Road, east of Highway H, west of 90th Street and north of Highway KR.
Fliess sold his property to the village for $1.675 million in August 2018.
Each lease lasts only a year and each party, including the village, can terminate the lease with a 30-day notice.
During the Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, just before the Village Board meeting, trustees debated the use of the village land that has not been conveyed to Foxconn.
Trustee Gary Feest said he did not like the idea of the village leasing land that was originally purchased for the purpose of Foxconn development.
“I’m a little uncomfortable that the village is becoming a land broker here,” Feest said.
Village President Dave DeGroot asked Feest if he would be OK with weeds growing on the property, to which Feest replied: “I guess to the degree of principle, yes.”
“I’ll suffer through a year,” Feest said. “It’s just we buy all of this land, remove the people from it and now we’re making money from it. I’m a little uneasy with it.”
Claude Lois, village project manager on Foxconn, said the company is aware that the village is leasing the land and does not have a problem with that.
As part of the agreement, Lois said village personnel can still go on to the property that is being leased and will not have to pay for any potential crop damage.
Although the property has been zoned as a “business park” and no longer for agricultural uses, Lois said because the land was previously being used for agricultural work and was zoned agricultural, the farming can be grandfathered in to be in line with local ordinances.
After the Wisconsin Department of Transportation took legal action against Cornerstone Pavers to move its concrete batch plant in Raymond, it is possible that plant could be coming to Mount Pleasant, specifically in at the corner of the East Frontage Road and Highway 11 in Area II of the Foxconn development.
At the Village Board meeting on Monday, the board voted 4-2 in favor of a lease agreement with Cornerstone to build a concrete batch plant in that area for temporary use. Trustees Ram Bhatia and Gary Feest were the two board members who voted “no.”
Cornerstone is a subcontractor with James Peterson and Sons Construction, which is working on Braun Road and Wisconn Valley Way.
Although the village approved the lease agreement, Cornerstone still needs to go before the Planning Commission to get a conditional-use permit and there needs to be a public hearing before the deal is actually done.
Chris Smith, attorney for the village, said the village is protected with this lease which requires Cornerstone to put $12,000 cash up front or a $50,000 bond which the village can recoup if there are any issues with Cornerstone.
Aside from the issue with WisDOT forcing Cornerstone to move its concrete batch plant, the company has had several separate issues in Racine County.
The most notable issue has been the construction work on Highway MM, which has been plagued with delays. Cornerstone blames those delays on AT&T utility work and harsh weather conditions.
The City of Racine also rejected Cornerstone to be prequalified to be a contractor in the city.
‘This is your chance’
Chris Cape, construction manager of Cornerstone, was present at Monday’s meeting but did not speak.
Attorney Jeff Leavell, representing Cornerstone, spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting to defend Cornerstone and advocate for the village’s approval of the lease.
Leavell said the concrete batch plant was previously located on Highway K west of Interstate 94 when it was a subcontractor for Michels Corp., which is doing construction work on the interstate.
“Cornerstone negotiated with Michels to stay on the Highway K property, in writing,” Leavell said. “As the end of the year (2018) approached the Michels Corp. pulled the rug out from underneath Cornerstone and told Cornerstone it had to leave and reneged on the contract.”
Cornerstone is now suing Michels Corp. in Milwaukee County Circuit Court for lost damages.
During Monday’s Village Board meeting, Bhatia said there have been too many issues with Cornerstone for him to ignore, but said he would like to see Cornerstone regain the trust of the public.
Feest said he voted against temporary concrete batch plant because he feels that it is too close to some of the homes in the area, “it’s strictly on the location and I’m just not comfortable with that location.”
DeGroot said the lease agreement is just the first step of the approval process and the village should let the approval process play out.
“Cornerstone, like them or not, they are the concrete paver for the Braun Road project and also the Wisconn Valley project,” DeGroot said. “It’s in everybody’s best interest that their batch site be sited close to where their work is.”
Trustee John Hewitt directed his comments directly to Cape, who was connected to the former Cape Construction Company that has since gone out of business. Hewitt said some residents have bad memories of projects under Cape Construction Company.
“It’s got Cornerstone’s name on it, but the name Cape goes very deep in this village, it goes very deep into the whole Racine community,” Hewitt said, adding there was an issue with Cape on a sewer project several years ago. “This is your chance, at least, to clean up the name Cape.”
“I’m a little uncomfortable that the village is becoming a land broker here … it’s just we buy all of this land, remove the people from it and now we’re making money from it. I’m a little uneasy with it.” Gary Feest,