Final Foxconn Eminent Domain Lawsuit Settled

The Village of Mount Pleasant has settled the last eminent domain lawsuit filed in 2018 by landowners whose land was taken by the municipality to make way for the Foxconn development.

Rodney and Catherine Jensen agreed to move from their home at 3301 Highway 41 four years after the village acquired the 2.92 acres of property through the eminent domain process.

Village officials said the land was needed for the road expansion. But the Jensens refused to budge, instead filing five federal lawsuits.

Wisconsin law gives municipalities the power to acquire private property using eminent domain as long as there is fair compensation and the property will be used for public purposes. This is usually to improve roads or sometimes to take over a dilapidated property.

The Jensens were among dozens of landowners whose land was secured to make way for Foxconn, which in July 2017 announced plans for a massive flat-panel display manufacturing facility that included a 20 million-square-foot complex and promised 13,000 jobs for the State.

These plans never materialized.

In July 2019, an investigation by Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Watch found the village had paid just over $152 million for 132 properties.

Records showed the village threatening eminent domain against some landowners, claiming their property was needed for road improvements. But in some cases, those plans changed or were scrapped even before the homes – some of them newly built – were bulldozed.

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The Jensens signed a nondisclosure agreement and could not be reached for comment. The settlement, reached last month, now releases the $569,300 the village paid the Jensens for their property.

The Jensens will also be paid by the village to move, once the couple pay liens on Kenosha County property, which the village of Mount Pleasant helped them recover.

When land acquisition for Foxconn began, owners of surplus land were offered options for $50,000 per acre. The Jensens’ federal lawsuit claimed it was seven to 10 times the fair market value of the property. Homeowners, on the other hand, were offered 1.4 times the value of their properties.

The lawsuit claimed that the road project used as the reason for eminent domain was a pretext to compel the Jensens to sell land “which will not be directly used for the road and utility expansion project so that it can be transmitted to Foxconn, or held for Foxconn’s benefit.”

Kelly Gallaher leads the watchdog group A Better Mount Pleasant. She said Foxconn’s development continues to be a failure, but the village refuses to believe it.

“All that time and money, just so they can give the land to Foxconn – that’s exactly what they’re going to do with the property,” Gallaher said.

Mount Pleasant village attorney Chris Smith said that since the Foxconn project began, the village has attempted to enter into voluntary agreements with all landowners to acquire the property needed for public infrastructure improvements.

“We are delighted to have reached a mutually acceptable settlement with Rodney and Catherine Jensen,” Smith said in a statement. “In addition to funds paid by the village in August 2018 for the acquisition of the land, the village bylaws provide for legally permitted compensation for Jensen’s activities and relocation costs.”