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Wisconn Valley Watch
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Another section of track was laid this week for the express train that is the $10 billion construction project for Foxconn Technology Group.

The Village of Mount Pleasant Board awarded the first of two contracts for demolition work attached to the coming Foxconn manufacturing campus. Fond du Lac County-based Guelig Waste Removal and Demolition LLC will conduct initial demolition work on the site of the state-blessed, state-backed project.

Read more about the Foxconn project.

More important, however, the Mount Pleasant Board also this week declared the entire area that will make up the 22-million-square-foot manufacturing campus as “blighted.” One board member said the designation was necessary to lower cost borrowing costs on bonds.

By putting the “blighted” label on a wide area, approximately 4 square miles, Mount Pleasant has eased the process of acquiring the remaining parcels that will be needed for the Foxconn project.

Read more about the properties designated as blighted.

What does ‘blighted’ really mean?

Wisconn Valley

But a village attorney and one board member had very different views of what “blighted” means. A state statute describes a blighted area as “predominantly open and … because of obsolete platting, diversity of ownership, deterioration of structures or of site improvements” somehow slows or gets in the way of the growth of a community.

In the case of properties yet to be collected for the project, it’s difficult to see them as deteriorating or lacking in site improvements. And if that is truly the case, doesn’t the blame for their condition in some part fall on the village? Shouldn’t planning and zoning laws have been better enforced to keep that from happening? That could be interesting campaign fodder in the next election.

The move all but assures that Mount Pleasant will be able to obtain the properties of the folks who were still resisting the unstoppable train that is the Foxconn project.

According to published reports, the attorney working for the village to purchase the land for the Foxconn deal said it was all part of an agreement between MP and the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer as part of a deal signed in 2017.

In a meeting this week, the attorney said the Mount Pleasant would make “every reasonable effort” to purchase all the needed property for the Foxconn Technology Group complex and related developments.

Make no mistake, should the holdout property owners continue to reject the current offers, the designation of “blighted” will be used as an eminent domain flamethrower to remove them from their land.

Vistas are reshaped

As these efforts continue, work is happening that is already transforming the Racine County landscape. Vistas that were once verdant swaths of agricultural acreage are becoming worksites dotted with dozens of pieces of massive yellow earthmoving equipment.

State-supported highway and intersection improvements are cleaning up the transportation grid. Once hilly tracts are being smoothed, and mountains of dirt are being created for further sculpting and terraforming. The first building, a 100,000 square-foot general purpose building, will be completed by the end of the year.

I drove north on the interstate adjacent to the campus a few days ago. As traffic allowed, I tried to imagine what it will look like in five years. I have driven on the other three sides of the project area, too, in recent weeks.

As you drive around the entire area, it is interesting to catch a glimpse of the changes as they happen. A number of farms are now abandoned. Barns and houses empty, lawns are uncut. Nearby, the equipment that will level the buildings and tear up the hard surfaces awaits.

The changes are coming swiftly and we all get to be witness to it. But don’t blink. It is happening with incredible speed. Like it or not, we will have the opportunity to watch history happen.

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Rex Davenport

Rex Davenport is a reporter, editor and editorial project manager with more than 40 years of experience in newspaper, business magazines and other content channels.