Last week, Walmart dropped a court appeal against the city of Sault Saint Marie in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, bringing an end to a two-year tax dispute and handing a surprise victory to a government coalition formed to combat a local manifestation of a larger movement that has pushed down property tax rates for “big box” retailers across several Midwestern states in recent years.
Walmart was fighting to apply the so-called “dark stores” tax-assessment theory to its “supercenter” space in the city of around 14,000 residents, located across the St. Mary’s River from Canada. The theory holds that the value of big-box retail property should be assessed as if it were empty. Companies like Menards, Home Depot, Target and Walmart say the dark stores theory more accurately tracks with the market because demand for big-box retail space is fairly limited. They say the value of an operating big-box business is much greater than the value of a cavernous vacant storefront property.
Opponents of the theory argue that all kinds of property similarly treated would see their tax assessments plunge. The value of an occupied home, they point out, is not equal to the same home fallen into foreclosure and left unoccupied for weeks or months or longer.
Nevertheless, the dark stores theory has gained traction in assessor offices across the country, and particularly at the Michigan Tax Tribunal. Disputes heard there stretching back over the last half decade have seen repeat victories for retailers. State tax revenue has plummeted as a result—by $100 million since 2013, according to some estimates.
It was sprinkling Saturday morning, September 24, as approximately 130 hearty Marquette residents walked into the Lowe’s store with an invitation to the Lowe’s corporate executives to come to Marquette in response to our residents’ and county officials’ concerns about how Lowe’s tax policies are affecting us.
Lowe’s literature talks about how much they value the communities in which they operate, but Marquette County residents and officials are seeing a discrepancy between what was said and what is actually happening. We want to encourage them to remain a good corporate citizen in our community.
The Marquette Mining Journal published a clear description of the event on the front page of the paper Tuesday, September 27.
Kelsie Thompson of the Mining Journal, wrote an excellent article about the Premiere of Boxed In held in Marquette on Aug 24.
People in attendance were asked to take 3 steps
to be in touch with Michigan Senators on the Finance Committee.
They were asked to support locally owned businesses (including 162 B.R.I.T.E. stores) that are not filing with the tax tribunal for the dark store tax loophole.
Accompany a group that will be delivering a message to Lowe’s in Marquette on Saturday, September 24 (meet in Lowe’s parking lot at 10:15 a.m.)