Should City Buy 500 Acres in Racine County?
Council resolution would order city to study buying land for Foxconn City.
The idea of Milwaukee developing a satellite city near the proposed Foxconn campus in southern Racine County continues to inch forward. Alderman Bob Bauman first floated the idea at a meeting of the Public Works Committee earlier this month. The alderman has now authored a directive for the Department of City Development to investigate the possibility of purchasing 500 contiguous acres in the town of Yorkville.
Yorkville is an attractive destination for the city because it is just west of the Foxconn site, located across Interstate 94 in rural Racine County. Bauman wants the land as a way for the city to provide affordable housing for Foxconn workers. The 20 million square-foot facility is expected to employ up to 13,000 people, many of whom could come from Milwaukee’s most impoverished neighborhoods and would lack reliable transportation to the campus.
At a hearing two weeks ago, assistant city attorney Jeremy McKenzie laid out six conditions that must be satisfied for the city to annex the land. “When I first got the assignment I thought there is probably no way to do this,” McKenzie told the Public Works Committee. But sure enough, there is, although it’s quite the difficult path.
- The land would have to be lying near, but not necessarily contiguous with the city.
- The land to be annexed must be owned by the city.
- The land must be in a town, and not a village, city or other incorporated entity.
- The town board must approve a resolution approving the annexation.
- The Racine County Board of Supervisors would need to approve the annexation.
- A boundary agreement governing the specific borders would need to be entered into by the city.
The land isn’t likely to be cheap. The Foxconn proposal, which occupies over 1,000 contiguous acres, sent land prices soaring in advance of its announcement. The company was reportedly offering $50,000 per acre to assemble the site, meaning the city’s purchase could cost $25 million. And while assembling a site that large in the city itself would certainly be more expensive, it would come with a number of infrastructure improvements including roads, water mains and sewer hookups. If the city buys the land they would be on the hook to build out that infrastructure.
Acquiring a 500 acre site would likely require the city to purchase multiple farms and adjoining properties. The average Wisconsin farm is 209 acres according to the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
The size of the site would dwarf a number of other large projects in Milwaukee. The biggest redevelopment project underway in the city, Century City, is taking place on a 60-acre site near N. 31st St. and W. Capitol Dr. The Menomonee Valley redevelopment included brownfield remediation of 300 acres.
The proposal is slated to go before the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee before eventually going before the full Common Council.
For more background on the idea, including its historical precedent, see my coverage from December 13th “Could Milwaukee Build a Foxconn City?”
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- Murphy’s Law: The Foxconn Real Estate Show - Bruce Murphy - Feb 25th, 2021
- Murphy’s Law: Local Costs for Foxconn Cut By 2% - Bruce Murphy - Feb 8th, 2021
- Foxconn Sued for Breach of Contract - Corri Hess - Feb 4th, 2021
- Vos and Wanggaard Continue to Gaslight Public on Foxconn Development - A Better Mt. Pleasant - Feb 3rd, 2021
- Murphy’s Law: Robin Vos Will Solve Foxconn Fiasco - Bruce Murphy - Feb 2nd, 2021
- Murphy’s Law: 9 Reasons a New Foxconn Contract Is Unlikely - Bruce Murphy - Dec 21st, 2020
- Audit Says Foxconn Loophole Needs a Fix - Corri Hess - Dec 9th, 2020
- Back in the News: Residents Outraged by Foxconn Fiasco - Bruce Murphy - Dec 8th, 2020
- Back in the News: Foxconn Landing Google Contract? - Bruce Murphy - Nov 23rd, 2020
- Op Ed: Mistake? Foxconn Was a Whopper - John Torinus - Oct 30th, 2020
Read more about Foxconn Facility here