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Settlement reached with couple on property near Foxconn site

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Rodney and Cathy Jensen

Rodney and Cathy Jensen, who had been challenging Mount Pleasant's offer for their property for the Foxconn development, listen to proceedings during a hearing in July 2019 in Racine County Circuit Court.

MOUNT PLEASANT — After almost three years, Catherine and Rodney Jensen have reached a settlement with the Village of Mount Pleasant regarding the taking of their property by the village.

In 2019, the village took to court against the Jensens seeking to buy their property, which is located in Tax Incremental District (TID) No. 5, which was created for Foxconn.

According to village documents, in 2018 the village gave the Jensens $569,300 for their 2.92 acres of land. But the Jensens never touched the initial sum of money; to do so would have meant they were giving up their fight against the eminent domain claim.

“We got a letter (from the village in spring 2018) basically saying that they own our house now,” Cathy Jensen told Wisconsin Watch in 2019. “We own your house and we’ll be very, you know, very generous and let you stay there rent-free until September 2019.”

Foxconn Jensens map

The Jensens’ property is in the 3300 block of Highway 41, immediately southeast of where Interstate 94 passes over Highway 11. It is about 1.5 miles northwest of the nearest Foxconn building.

A public settlement agreement between the village and the Jensens, released to a reporter on Tuesday, shows that the village will give the Jensens $226,700 in relocation benefits.

In 2018, the last time the property was assessed according to Racine County land records, its fair market value was deemed to be $203,800.

When Mount Pleasant bought more than 100 properties in the Foxconn area on behalf of the Taiwanese tech giant, the village was offering 40% more than expected fair market prices for those homes, plus usually around $50,000 more in relocation benefits.

With the Jensens being paid $796,000, they’re getting more than double what the village would have been expected to offer and almost quadruple the most recent assessed fair market price.

$100,000 of that may be held back by the village in case of fees to obtain the property deed or any “reasonable and necessary clean-up and removal costs” once the Jensens leave their property.

The Jensens have until May 15 to leave. Until they vacate, the village is granted reasonable access, with reasonable notice, to the Jensens’ property to inspect it for planning demolition.

The Jensens have no comment, according to their counsel, attorney Erik Olsen with Madison-based Eminent Domain Services, LLC.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has reached a scaled-down deal with Foxconn -- one that will cut tax breaks by billions. 

“As it has since the beginning of the Foxconn project, the Village has endeavored to reach voluntary agreements with all property owners to acquire the property necessary for public infrastructure improvements,” said Village Attorney Chris Smith in a statement. “We are pleased to reach a mutually agreeable settlement with Rodney and Catherine Jensen. In addition to the funds paid by the Village in August 2018 for acquisition of the land, the Village’s settlement provides statutorily authorized compensation for the Jensen’s business and relocation costs.”

The Jensens were among the property owners who fought the taking and demolishing of properties for Foxconn under “blight” declaration in 2018.

The village had declared four square miles — about 2,800 acres — as blighted, giving the village board one more tool to force landowners to sell their property to make way for the Foxconn plant and associated development.

Wisconsin law states that if a municipality determines a property as blighted, it then makes way for redevelopment or demolition of the property/removal of buildings.

The vast majority of property owners inside the Foxconn areas sold, with the Jensens having been among the final holdouts, along with Kim and James Mahoney; Kim Mahoney lost by just 62 votes in her 2020 bid to represent her district on the Racine County Board.

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