City and Menards settle dispute over Dark Store theory
By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD – The city of Marshfield will not go to court over a dispute with Menards regarding an attempt to reduce property assessments at their Marshfield store.
The dispute is based on the “Dark Story” theory which reasons that if there is a vacant store at another location that has gotten a reduction in value, that is what they want as a comparable to the operating store in Marshfield.
Conversations began between the city and Menards in late 2018.
“Both Menards and Walmart have made that argument,” said City Administrator Steve Barg, “and it’s going on across the country – other big boxes too.
“Menard’s said, ‘Hey, look. You’ve got us valued at $8.2 million. We’ve looked at other stores, including some stores that are no longer operating and they are similar in square footage, might be the same size, but they are valued a lot less.’
“They were looking for a significant reduction – about 25 percent roughly in reduction in value. We found that to be not appropriate. So, we’ve had a lot of discussions. This has gone on for about a year.”
Barg stated that over time, Menards has softened on their stance for a reduction in assessed value.
“Decisions that have been made in court in some of these cases have been trending more favorable toward cities and villages. Not all of them…,” Barg explained.
“They came to our city assessor and said, ‘We’ll settle on your $8.2 million. We’ll forget about the claims in 2017-18. We’ll let all of that go. We are not looking for any relief, but the only thing we ask for from you is we have done some minor improvements; we’ve increased the value in the last year. So, it would normally go up from $8.2 (million) to closer to $8.7. We would like for 2020, for the assessed value to remain $8.2.’”
Barg added that while the city would be losing some value. It doesn’t lock the city in for future years, past 2020, and will prevent the city from incurring any additional court costs.
After a March 10 closed session meeting, the council voted 5-3 to move forward with Menard’s request.
“It seems like a good resolution for us, and we are hopeful when we go down the road with Walmart later this year that we’ll get to a similar resolution,” Barg said.