By Tim Kowols
Sturgeon Bay is joining a growing list of Wisconsin municipalities being challenged by big-box retailers over their property assessments. In September, the Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust filed a suit against the City of Sturgeon Bay in Door County Circuit Court for a money judgment in regards to their property assessment, which according to Door County Land Records has an estimated fair market value of $7,480,000. According to the USA Today-Wisconsin Network, other big-box stores like Menards, Walgreens, and Target have sought lower assessments across the state through the “dark-stores theory,” which argues their locations are similar in value to vacant stores. City administrator Josh VanLieshout says big box stores have had mixed results in the 200 cases filed against Wisconsin communities.
The City of Sturgeon Bay and the Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust will meet in court on November 13 for a scheduling conference. Republican State Representative Rob Brooks and State Senators Roger Roth and Duey Stroebel have proposed a bill that would make it harder for retailers to win “dark-stores” lawsuits by requiring assessors to determine assessments using similar stores in the same market and at its highest and best use.