Residents tell officials to fight microchip plant

They say semiconductor facility would destroy Town of Port but officials caution they may be helpless to stop project

RESIDENTS TOLD officials Monday that they are afraid a massive semiconductor facility would destroy the rural character of the Town of Port Washington, which is depicted on a sign outside Town Hall. Press file photo
Ozaukee Press staff


Ozaukee Press staff

PORT WASHINGTON - A crowd of about 20 residents from the Town of Port Washington and surrounding area asked town officials Monday what they and the town can do to stop a semiconductor manufacturer from buying up vast swaths of land in the town to build a sprawling semiconductor manufacturing facility.

“Are there plans to have a town meeting for citizens to get more direction, to come up with a game plan?” asked Matt Gaulke, 3185 Green Bay Rd. “Can we make it harder for them? It will change what we are.

“It’s not just going to be that 1,000 acres (affected). It’s going to be to the north, the south, the east and west — it will affect everyone. Are we worried the town won’t really be the town anymore?”

A woman asked if the town officials  have the power to fight a facility like this.

“Are we talking to the right people to object to this?” she asked. “This is going on a month already, and you’re just letting it fly by.”

She noted that a facility like the one residents believe could be built would change the town immeasurably.

“This is pollution. It’s the light — from my farm, I can see Charter Steel’s lights,” she said, adding there’s also noise pollution. “I do live in the country, and I want it to stay this way.”

If the semiconductor manufacturer buys the land but doesn’t build the plant, it will still make that area vulnerable to other development, another woman pointed out.

“The opening will be there,” she said.

“Will you and the board show any resistance to this?” one man asked Town Chairman Mike Didier.

“Right now, I think there would be resistance,” Didier said.

But, he cautioned, that doesn’t mean the town can stop the development.

If someone wants to sell their property to a developer, government can’t step in and stop it, Didier said.

The Town of Port, he said, would be appealing to a company like a microchip manufacturer.

“There’s a lot of water. There’s a lot of land, and it’s near a lot of people,” Didier said, noting many microchip makers hire about 300 people.

“That’s like Simplicity opening up again,” he said. “I think the city could handle that.”

The potential development pointed out an issue with the town’s zoning laws, which require homes in the agricultural districts to be on 35-acre lots.

“That’s why there’s all this land available,” Didier said. “There are big parcels out here.”

While the town controls the zoning of property within its borders, a company can get around it if it seeks to annex land to the City of Port, and there’s little the town can do to prevent an annexation, he added.

Years ago, the town sought to incorporate as a village to prevent annexations, and the state Department of Administration turned down the request, Didier noted.

Even if the land were to remain in the town, Didier said, it is likely that there would be state backing for a microchip manufacturing facility and the Legislature could pass a bill that would pave the way for the project.

“Only municipalities can change the zoning — but that’s not to say there won’t be a bill passed,” Didier said.

“Realistically, they are going to annex to the city.”

When asked his personal feeling about the potential development, Didier said, “I don’t know enough to make an opinion.”

Several residents asked what town officials knew of the situation and whether they stood to gain from it, since the  semiconductor manufacturer is offering $42,000 per acre.

“Do you have skin in the game?” Susan Waldhuetter, 1856 Dixie Rd., Town of Belgium, asked.

Didier and town supervisors Gary Schlenvogt and Greg Welton said they are not among those choosing to sell their property.

Although town officials have not been approached about the proposed development, Didier said, city and county officials may have been.

He said he has not talked to Port Mayor Ted Neitzke about the proposal, but at the urging of the audience agreed to reach out to him.

Paul Krauska, 4836 Hwy. LL, told the board he has been told that the company has agreements with landowners to buy 1,899 acres of land.

The residents need information and direction “so as constituents, as a group, we can stop it or slow it down so it can’t happen,” he said.

The company is looking for land in an area that extends north from Knellsville at the town’s border with the City of Port Washington to roughly Dixie Road and from I-43 west to the Ozaukee Interurban Trail.

Town officials said they first learned of the potential land purchases from Krauska, who told Ozaukee Press he was approached by Jeff Hoffman, a principal with the Milwaukee commercial real estate company Cushman & Wakefield/Boerke, who wanted to buy his land for the company.

The manufacturer is also looking at communities in Ohio and Indiana as potential sites for its plant, according to information provided to landowners by Hoffman.

Hoffman initially told landowners that he had until May 31 to secure accepted offers on roughly 1,000 acres if the Town of Port Washington is to make the “finalist cut” with the company, although the deadline may have been extended.

According to the timeline Hoffman provided potential sellers, the buyer will compare and evaluate the three potential sites for its facility from July through August.

The identity of the semiconductor manufacturer is unknown, but a landowner who asked not to be identified told Ozaukee Press that Hoffman described it as a U.S. company currently making semiconductors overseas.

In addition to the availability of adequate land, factors it will consider include the cost of the infrastructure needed to support the facility, conversations with local, state and federal agencies that will need to approve the project and a review of the existing labor force as well as the likelihood of attracting workers to the area.

The company is expected to announce the intended location of the facility in September.

Hoffman described the four months from September to December as a “critical” period during which the company will submit plans for its facility and public hearings will be held locally.

At the same time, the company will begin seeking environmental permits from state and federal agencies.

“Within this time frame we should have a pretty good idea of whether or not the project will receive the support that it will need to get across the finish line,” Hoffman wrote.

The company plans to secure final approvals in June 2025 and buy land at the location it chooses by the end of July.

Construction could begin in late summer 2025 or in spring 2026.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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