MILWAUKEE (CN) – Wisconsin residents filed a federal lawsuit contesting the anticipated loss of their homes to the $10 billion Foxconn electronics factory, a project touted by President Donald Trump that is expected to break ground this year.
Twelve Wisconsinites, represented by Erik Olsen of Eminent Domain Services LLC, sued the village of Mount Pleasant and its president, David DeGroot, in Milwaukee federal court on Monday, arguing their land and homes are being taken in violation of their 14th Amendment rights to due process, equal protection and private property.
Gov. Scott Walker and Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou signed an agreement last fall granting $2.85 billion in state income tax credits for the electronics factory project.
Walker and President Trump celebrated the deal for Foxconn, a Taiwanese electronics company that supplies parts to Apple and other tech firms, to open the $10 billion flat-screen plant in the Badger State, saying it would create thousands of jobs.
Shortly after the agreement was signed, some residents say they began to receive letters from Mount Pleasant stating that their land, homes and businesses would be acquired for the project and the related road and utility projects.
Mount Pleasant and Racine County then approved a developer’s agreement requiring the village to acquire about 2,900 acres of land for the project, according to the lawsuit.
However, the residents argue Wisconsin statute § 32.03(6)(b) was enacted to prevent the government from taking private property for the direct benefit of a private enterprise.
They allege Mount Pleasant and DeGroot are interpreting the statute in a way that “protects property owners who are not abutting roads from condemnation for private use, but not the identically situated landowners who happen to abut a road that is being expanded only for the use of the private company.”
Some of the affected landowners, but not the plaintiffs, were offered packages in which their property would be optioned based on a formula under which they could receive up to seven times the fair-market value of their property, according to the complaint.
“The defendants created a policy under color of state law, of not offering option packages to the plaintiffs in this case, because the plaintiffs’ properties abut roads. Instead the defendants are going to use eminent domain to compensate the plaintiffs based on a framework that provides 1/7th or less of the pro rata compensation that their similarly situated neighbors are receiving,” the complaint states.
According to the lawsuit, Gov. Walker also helped pass legislation designed to bring the Foxconn project to Wisconsin that eases environmental safeguards and authorizes the creation of an electronics and information technology manufacturing zone.
“Possibly, the defendants’ policies of waiving the basic procedural and substantive protections will lead to the plaintiffs living in polluted and degraded area with the accompanying irreparable harm to health [and] the environment which would have otherwise been preventable,” the lawsuit states.
The residents want a federal judge to declare that the Foxconn developer’s agreement is unconstitutional, as well as a temporary restraining order enjoining Mount Pleasant from taking their land.
Counsel for the residents, the village and its president did not immediately respond Wednesday to an email request for comment.