A bicyclist enters the
parking lot of Menards in West Bend.
Daily News file photo
WEST BEND — Several
government officials here have said a big-box retailer suing West
Bend to knock down several years’ worth of property taxes is
withdrawing its lawsuit against the city.
Menards filed its first “Dark Store Theory” suit against West Bend
in 2016, when the Eau Claire-based hardware and home improvement
chain said the city had overcharged on its property tax bill.
The company followed up with two more related suits in 2017 and 2018
— all three cases were eventually rolled into one — and a trial was
slated to start in a few weeks.
“The City of West Bend is pleased to announce that the Menards
three-year property tax assessment challenge has ended,” the city
said in a news release distributed to media late Friday. “Menards
has withdrawn their cases that had been scheduled to go to the
circuit court in June 2019.”
Online court records detailing the latest twist in the years-long
saga didn’t appear immediately available this weekend. News of the
apparent suit’s withdrawal came late Friday as local circuit courts
were closing for the long holiday weekend. As of Memorial Day,
online information about the case still showed a trial scheduled to
start on June 10.
Jason Stahmann, an assistant manager at West Bend’s Menards outlet,
declined comment when contacted by a reporter on Monday and directed
inquiries to the retailer’s corporate offices.
West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow and City Administrator Jay Shambeau
confirmed Monday the city has been told that Menards is withdrawing
“West Bend has been a leader in combating the dark store theory,”
the mayor said in a statement Friday. “I am proud of our city
council and staff for their resistance to buckle to the big box
pressure to accept a settlement offer. Any type of settlement
would have caused a tax shift to other city property taxpayers. This
was unacceptable in my opinion.”
“Our City Assessors take great pride in their work and establish
fair and equitable assessed values,” Shambeau said in the same news
The city’s statement further noted that “The cancellation of this
lawsuit affirms the fact that the City of West Bend assessments were
proper and fair all along.”
Menards’ “Dark Store” litigation wasn’t a new concept in Wisconsin.
Multiple companies in recent years have sought help from the state’s
courts in reducing their local property tax bills. Key to those
suits is the claim by some companies that their property assessments
should be no different than for nearby shuttered — or “dark” —
Government officials across Wisconsin have tried pushing back
against the wave of lawsuits, arguing that reducing business’
property bills effectively shifts more of the local tax burden to
In his statement, Sadownikow said he hoped state lawmakers in
Madison would have the “intestinal fortitude” to enact new state
rules aimed at stopping “these frivolous and costly lawsuits.”
Menards isn’t the only company that had challenged its West Bend tax
bill. Walmart is also suing the city on similar grounds. As of
Monday, it appeared that case was still moving forward, though
records indicate the next court scheduling date isn’t expected until
early next year.