Waukesha reaches $14M settlement with Menards
Company sued city for lower property tax assessment over ‘dark store theory’

By Hannah Weikel - Freeman Staff

Sept. 8, 2017

WAUKESHA — Menards Inc. has reached a $14 million settlement with Waukesha after bringing a lawsuit against the city for a lower tax assessment based on the “dark store theory.”

Waukesha is facing similar challenges from Farm & Fleet and Target under the same argument that those stores should be assessed the same as vacant stores with the same footprint. Menards had said the city's assessment of $15.9 million for 2016 and 2017 was too high and asked to be assessed at $8 million.

The settlement was reached late last month for $14 million, which allows Menards to recover a $14,120 refund for 2016 property taxes within 30 days.

Of that refund, Waukesha is responsible to pay just over half, which will come out of funds set aside for these situations. The rest will be refunded by Waukesha County and school districts, said Mayor Shawn Reilly.

Reilly said the city signed a stipulation agreement on Wednesday that will be sent to Waukesha County Circuit Court to dismiss the lawsuit.

Wisconsin's state Assembly is weighing two bills that would curtail property tax shifts that have become common across the state and nation.

Reilly has testified before an Assembly committee that was taking a first look at the bills several months ago. He said the bills are needed to end “unfair and ongoing” property tax shifts that are placing higher burdens on homeowners while saving big box retailers money. City Administrator Kevin Lahner traveled to the state Capitol recently to present a similar argument.

Other stores that have benefited from the dark store theory in Waukesha in the past are Walmart, Target, Walgreens and Woodman’s.

Email: hweikel@conleynet.com