Hartland Officials & State Legislators Discuss "Dark Stores" Issue
August 22, 2018
Local legislators were in Hartland Township to speak with officials as they prepare to defend their tax assessment on a big box retailer.
State Senator Joe Hune and State Representatives Hank Vaupel and Lana Theis spoke to the Hartland Township Board of Trustees, Tuesday night, on the status of legislation that could affect how big box retailers are taxed. Also known as “dark stores,” this presentation came on the same night the Board chose an assessor of their own, as the Rural King on M-59 is attempting to have their assessment lowered.
Many dark stores have challenged that they should be treated more as warehouses than retail establishments when it comes to tax assessments, which would lower that they pay. The Board of Trustees is of the opinion that a lower tax base on the Rural King would unfairly push their tax burden onto smaller, local businesses.
Township Assessor Jim Heaslip reported that Hartland Township already has the lowest tax rate for dark stores in the county. He said they were prepared to ask Rural King for $36 per square foot, but that they are asking for $23 per. He and Township Manager James Wickman were concerned about the trickle-down effect this could have on other large businesses, namely the Target, Meijer, and E-Magine Theater in the area. Heaslip estimated that a lower Rural King assessment alone could mean around $100,000 in lost revenue over 2 years.
As part of their meeting, the Board of Trustees agreed to hire the firm of Frohm & Widmer to represent the township through the assessment process for $10,000. Of the 3 bids received, they were recommended Frohm & Widmer based largely on their experience in assessing big box retailers and their experience in court with them.
Legislation that would potentially favor the township in this matter recently passed through the State House with bipartisan support, but has stalled out in the Senate Finance Committee. Hune said the Senate tends to lean on the opinions of the chairs, and that with Finance Committee Chairman Jack Brandenburg opposing it, he doesn’t see it moving this year. The Senator said he felt the reasons were more philosophical than political, and that with several Senators being term limited in key positions for this, including Brandenburg, there may be hope in the new blood coming in.
As part of their meeting, the Board of Trustees agreed to hire the firm of Frohm & Widmer to represent the township through the assessment process for $10,000. Of the 3 bids received, they were recommended Frohm & Widmer based largely on their experience in assessing big box retailers and their experience in court with them. (MK)