Big Republican Government

Wisconsin is Seizing Homes for Foxconn, Offering Peanuts in Return

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

We already know Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's deal with Foxconn is an insanely expensive boondoggle that will cost over $200,000 per job created for a total of over $4 billion and counting, but here's something I didn't know: the state is also seizing the homes of residents where the factory will be built.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that local residents are angry but not just because they're losing their homes. They're angry because authorities are trying to short-change them.

Moreover, authorities have declared the land a "blighted area" even though there's no blight.

Chief among the residents’ complaints: being offered 1.4 times the market value of their small parcels while large landowners got several times the going rate for their property, and the village’s proposal to declare 2,800 acres in the Foxconn district a blighted area.

Kimberly Mahoney, who has been a vocal critic of the village’s approach, said “professional land grabbers” had made millionaires of the area’s farmland owners.

Other homeowners and their advocates, meanwhile, called the plan to declare the mostly agricultural Foxconn district a blighted area “absurd,” “a ruse,” “a sham,” “fraudulent” and a “farce.”

Governor Scott Walker and the other officials who've presided over this whole ordeal fancy themselves as small government conservatives, but they're using every trick in the state's book to shove people out of their homes.

Alan Marcuvitz, an attorney for the village, said Mount Pleasant is properly using a section of state law that allows an area to be declared blighted even though not a single property within it is blight-ridden.

That section of the law provides a broad definition of a “blighted area” within a redevelopment zone. An area can be blighted if it is predominantly open and, because of diverse ownership, obsolete platting, or even for unspecified reasons, “substantially impairs or arrests the sound growth of the community.”

Some the largest landowners in the area have been offered up to $50,000 per acre while local homeowners are being offered significantly less than that. The Journal reports at least one landowner has turned down the offer for $50,000 per acre because they believe the land is worth far more than that.

Ironically, Mount Pleasant's attorney justified the decision to declare the area a "blighted area" by saying the land will be worth "82 times what is is now" once the factory is complete. If that's true, shouldn't local residents be offered more than few thousand dollars?

Local residents have filed a lawsuit in federal court because authorities are offering them less than what they believe they deserve.

To fully appreciate the absurdity of this deal I think you have to understand that this factory is being built to manufacturer a technology (LCD screens) that may already be obsolete and the project is not projected to turn a profit for taxpayers until sometime after the year 2045. Half of the state's current population won't even be alive when the project is projected to start paying for itself. And that projection is based on an ideal scenario that would see the factory eventually create 13,000 jobs and sustain them for many years.

Does anyone really believe that's going to happen? I would not be surprised if the factory closes within a decade.

  • muselet

    Scott Walker is nothing if not ambitious, and he has the Koch brothers bankrolling him. “I brought good manufacturing jobs to a blighted area of Wisconsin” will be the line he repeats over and over in his campaign for whatever office the Kochs want him to hold next.

    –alopecia

    • fry1laurie

      The only blight on Wisconsin is Walker himself.

      • Badgerite

        Bingo.

  • Aynwrong

    I hate to be so cynical but I can’t help but think this is the perfect environment for Democrats to be campaigning in. How could people there be anything but utterly disgusted by this?

    • Tony Lavely

      IIRC, they voted for Walker two times, plus defeated a recall. Maybe he is doing what his constituents want. The ones who vote, anyway.

      • muselet

        Your last sentence is the key.

        –alopecia

        • Tony Lavely

          Too true.
          But until it changes…

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