SOMERS — Village officials are urging the Wisconsin Legislature to close the “dark stores” loophole.
The Village Board sent a letter to the state Rep. John Macco, chairman of the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee, urging the committee to hear and act on AB 386, which specifies that a vacant or “dark” property cannot be used as comparable property for determining the assessed value of a fully operational and occupied property.
“Put it on the agenda this September to get passed,” Village Board president George Stoner said. “I’ve been pushing this thing for almost a year and half.”
Stoner said Indiana and Michigan have enacted laws to close such loopholes.
“The state legislators that I’ve been in contact with, they were all excited, and then it died. Then, all of the sudden Foxconn comes here, and within weeks ... everybody’s passing these bills, and everything is just going lightning fast because they need this thing done by September.”
Stoner said the dark store legislation “affects every single taxpayer in the state of Wisconsin.”
“Every time a box store gets a tax break, we lose money,” he said. “We have to take up that difference.”
In late July, the village received formal notification filed in civil court that Walmart, 3500 Brumback Blvd., and Sam’s Club, 3300 Brumback Blvd., would be challenging the stores’ 2017 assessments.
According to the documents, Walmart is valued at $13,476,000 and Sam’s Club at $9,908,200. The real estate trusts are asking the courts for lowered valuations of $8,848,900 and $7,384,850, respectively.
Walmart and Sam’s Club officials did not return calls seeking comment.
Village Board Trustee David Geertsen, citing a study published by the Wisconsin Counties Association, said that if “dark store” methods continue, most homeowners in the state would see an increase of 8 percent on their tax bills, according to a survey of assessors.
Pleasant Prairie could take a 17 percent hit if retailers continued to take advantage of the loophole, the report said.
“That’s how dramatic it would be,” said Trustee David Geertsen. “It would be right in our backyard.”