MOUNT PLEASANT — A local community group is asking Mount Pleasant Community Development Authority members to resign if they vote to blight an area within the Foxconn development zone.
The group — A Better Mount Pleasant — issued a news release Thursday stating that Mount Pleasant residents may have their homes blighted, even though the homes do not fit the state's requirement for blighting property.
"They want to blight the area and use this form of eminent domain instead of negotiating with residents and offering them a fair deal," said Kelly Gallaher, a representative of A Better Mount Pleasant. "They are using the law against people who didn't particularly intend to move and they are handing that property over to a private corporation."
Wisconsin statutes cited
The group cites Wisconsin State Statute 32.03(6), which says that condemnation through blighting can only be used if the property is not occupied by the owner of the property or a relative of the owner or the crime rate in, on, or adjacent to the property is at least three times the crime rate in the remainder of the municipality in which the property is located.
On March 20, the Mount Pleasant CDA approved the land borders for the 2,900-acre designated Foxconn development area after many property owners voiced their objections. Only one CDA member, Matthew Cramer, voted against the borders.
The area approved by the CDA is largely bounded by 90th Street to the east, Highway KR to the south, Highway 11 to the north and Interstate 94 to the west. According to Alan Marcuvitz, Mount Pleasant’s property acquisition attorney and expert, the village already owns two-thirds of that land. The initial Foxconn development is planned for the far southwest corner of the area designated on March 20 — from I-94 to Highway H and from Braun Road to Highway KR.
During the March 20 meeting Marcuvitz read a subsection of the law, which says that a blighted area can be “an area which is predominantly open, and which because of obsolete planning, diversity of ownership, deterioration of structures or of site improvements or otherwise substantially impairs or arrests the sound growth of the community.”
Village officials believe this definition allows them to define the area as blighted. Therefore, they believe they can use eminent domain to acquire additional land from holdouts in the area.
“Even though there may not be a single blighted property, the area may still be determined as a blighted area, which allows the acquisition of non-blighted properties,” Marcuvitz said at the meeting.
Gallaher disagrees with Marcuvitz's application of the use of that subsection of the law, stating it is unfair to residents.
"By using that loophole, they are assigning that standard to residential properties and homes that never would fit the legal definition," Gallaher said. "If you expand what they are doing in this particular area by taking an area that has been agricultural and residential and changing the purpose of what the area has been used for, they can change it anywhere."
Group requests resignations
The group is asking that those who vote to blight the properties resign from their post, citing the Mount Pleasant Village Code of Ethics, which states "any public official who knowingly acts in excess of their legal authority and official capacity has committed misconduct in office."
"There is a difference of opinion and the CDA does not appear poised to consider the differences of opinion," Gallaher said. "Their real purpose is to serve the people and residents of Mount Pleasant, not Foxconn."
A Better Mount Pleasant has created an online petition at Change.org that as of Tuesday afternoon had 135 signatures.
“Most of these homeowners haven’t even entered into negotiations with the village before they decided to play the ‘blight’ card,” Gallaher said. “The CDA has been given detailed information on why these properties do not meet the legal definition of ‘blighted.’ They have ignored the law and their own neighbors, and appear poised to do it anyway.”
The village is offering the affected homeowners in the Foxconn area 140 percent of fair market value for their properties.