RACINE COUNTY — A Mount Pleasant business owner says he’s suing the village after they landlocked his property and forced him to close after negotiations to sell the land fell apart.
Village officials deemed the property ‘blighted’ land that sits in a Foxconn construction zone after the owner refused to sell a majority of his land.
Jack and Colleen Erickson have owned Erickson Trucks-N-Parts, which sits next to I-94, for more than two decades. Just a few years ago, they applied for permits to build brand-new facilities, but now they can’t even get on their property as barricades block the entrance.
“They're bullying us,” Jack said. “There's no question about it, they're bullying us."
Jack said they agreed to sell just under 2 acres of land to Mount Pleasant for $1.6 million, so a frontage road could be expanded for the Foxconn project.
The Ericksons say negotiations fell apart for the rest of their property, including where their business sits, because they felt the offer was too low.
“They landlocked us, so then they had this plan on this public nuisance and this blight. I mean it was a planned deal,” Jack said.
After months of the Ericksons being unable to get onto their property, Mount Pleasant officials voted two weeks ago to deem the Ericksons’ remaining land as ‘blighted.' Under Wisconsin law, that means the property is dilapidated or unsafe.
"We've been in business for 22 years out there, and never had any kind of a ticket or warning on appearance or anything,” Jack said.
The village said it moved forward with blighting the land because of “the current state of the property and lack of action by Erickson to remedy the condition of its property."
The village said it pursued all reasonable efforts to purchase the property for infrastructure improvements, including an offer to buy a similar sized lot for the Ericksons on the same road, along with $900,000 for moving expenses.
Colleen said the land they were offered would need several million dollars to pay for utilities and asphalt to be installed. Jack and Colleen believe it would take more than a year of construction before they could reopen their business.
“I don't think it's right that they want to pay us pennies on the dollar or move us somewhere that isn't where we can pick up and basically resume business, because that would not have happened with what they offered,” she said.
The Ericksons say they’re in the process of launching a lawsuit against the village for allegedly using illegal methods to take the land they want to keep.
"They want us to roll over. We're not going to. I don't have a lot of money, but I have some and we're going to fight them because I feel what they're doing to us is wrong,” Jack said.
The center of Foxconn construction is just a mile east of the Erickson's property. The village said Foxconn and Fisker are still in conversations with the state’s economic development corporation before determining whether to build electric vehicles in Mount Pleasant in the future.