A subsidiary of Meijer Inc., the Grand Rapids, Mich., retailer making a move into Wisconsin, has joined the parade of big-box retail companies challenging their tax assessments.
In a lawsuit filed against the City of Wauwatosa, Meijer Stores Limited Partnership argues that its sprawling supermarket and discount store on W. Burleigh St. is worth only one-third the city’s assessment.
Wauwatosa values the property at about $23.3 million, according to Meijer’s complaint, filed last month in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.
The retailer contends the fair market value is no more than $7,965,000.
Meijer’s basis for contesting the assessment wasn’t immediately clear. Representatives of neither the company nor the city were available Monday, and the complaint doesn’t detail the firm’s reasoning.
But the lawsuit comes amid a flurry of challenges by other big-box retailers arguing what is often called “dark store theory” — the idea that the locations should be assessed based on the prices they likely would command if they were closed and sold as empty shells.
Menards, Lowe’s, ShopKo and others have taken to Wisconsin courts to press their cases for lower assessments, often using dark-store theory. Municipal officials have been fighting that idea and are backing legislation they hope will rein it in.
Communities fear that growing use of the practice will shift tax burden from commercial property to homeowners. Advocates for the retailers, meanwhile, say they are only reacting to previous, inappropriate increases in their assessments.
Meijer entered Wisconsin in June 2015 with stores in Grafton and Kenosha. The firm since has opened several others here, including locations in Waukesha, Sussex, West Bend, Greenfield and Oak Creek.
On the same day it filed its case against Wauwatosa, Meijer Stores Limited Partnership also sued the City of Kenosha. Information on that case was not available Monday.