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A road relocation project in Sturtevant as well as any further investment in the village by SC Johnson is in jeopardy, according to a letter from company chair Fisk Johnson.
The letter was delivered over the weekend to Sturtevant trustees and Village Administrator/Clerk Mary Cole in
“We don’t know where this is coming from because we have been in constant contact with them for years about land acquisition or eminent domain,” he said. “This is absolute craziness because their staff requested that letter from our engineers spelling it all out.”
Racine County Eye reached out to SC Johnson officials, but they would not provide comment for this story.
In a nutshell, Johnson accuses village officials of not communicating with the company about the Willow Road relocation project and says Sturtevant filing for eminent domain earlier this month amounted to an act of aggression.
“Dialogue with the Village has been conceptual and frankly highly sporadic over this time,” the letter reads. “So it came as a disappointment when we recently received a letter from the Village’s consultant … threatening eminent domain if we did not agree to sell a portion of land to the south of Waxdale by May 15th.”
The letter goes on to say the village never engaged SCJ in conversations or negotiations – even when the Willow Road project in 2014 was scheduled ahead of the state’s plan to widen Highway 11 – and manipulated the timeline to force the company’s hand.
“We are left wondering why the village did not actively engage us at that time in formal negotiations … and threatens SC Johnson with eminent domain,” the letter continues. “… this now causes us significant hesitation and concern over the prudence of making future investments in Sturtevant.”
Village officials dispute that assertion, though, and responded to Johnson with a detailed letter of their own and attachments that support Sturtevant’s stance that conversations have been on-going for years, beginning in the 1990s when the project was first proposed.
“There are dozens and dozens of email communications back and forth between the Village and SC J where agreements were reached in concept and schedules updated,” the Sturtevant letter reads. “The Village in no way is attempting to threaten anyone or any business … we simply cannot afford for any more delays in land acquisition in order to keep this project moving.”
For Sturtevant, though, the issue is about safety; for traffic in and out of Farm & Fleet and at the current intersection of Willow Road and Durand Avenue where visibility is limited. The plan is to turn Willow Road into cul de sac and redirect traffic along the new road to a controlled intersection at 84th Street. Willow Road will then be extended south to connect on the other side of Schulte School and the Kirkorian Preserve.
SCJ contends there are other alternatives, but Jansen said the company has never presented any additions or revisions other than the ones worked out over the years to keep the impact to SC Johnson land as minimal as possible.
More, Johnson points out that the new timeline for Willow Road is partially because Sturtevant tax incremental financing district closes next year, a point Jansen said has never been a secret.
The letter Johnson references is dated March 24 and is addressed to Matthew Wagner in SC Johnson’s Global Community Affairs office as a follow up to a March 19 meeting during which Wagner reportedly asked for clarification on a number of points, including a timeline and the possibility of eminent domain if there wasn’t an agreement in place by May 15.
Another letter dated May 5 – also addressed to Wagner – spells out a potential purchase agreement between the parties as requested by SC Johnson back in 2012 when company officials refused to consider a land purchase until or unless the village had concrete plans for the Willow Road relocation.
In any case, Sturtevant officials are hopeful an agreement can get worked out and a move toward eminent domain is avoided.
“This project has been a long-term planning project, and it is the desire of the Village to complete it while they have the funds to do so,” Sturtevant’s letter to Johnson concludes. “We are also prepared to start immediate dialogue to acquire land needed for this project and would respectfully request your personal involvement in that quest.”
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