Big-box stores battle local governments over property taxes; value of property a challenge for assessors, says Rose Law Group litigator Evan Bolick


The retailers are deploying a ‘dark store’ strategy that’s hurting cities and counties around the country.

By Liz Farmer | Governing

On Michigan’s sparsely populated Upper Peninsula, big-box stores are a modern necessity. Where towns are spaced far apart and winters are long, one-stop shopping to load up on supplies adds a crucial convenience to what can be — at least for many — a rugged existence.

Landing one large retailer is a coup. Having more than one can make a city or town a regional shopping destination. Marquette Township, a small community adjacent to the larger city of Marquette, is in the unique position of having a handful of big-box chain stores. Taking advantage of the fact that the city of Marquette was mostly built out, the township began encouraging large-scale commercial development on its western edge early in the 2000s.


“Valuing unique properties such as big box stores can present a challenge to county assessors, although it is hard  to say there is no merit  to the ‘dark store’ valuation method. It is important to keep in mind, however, many such stores market themselves as spurring economic development in order to receive favorable leases and zoning. Thus, county  assessors must be wary of conferring overly favorable property tax valuations to such properties as in so doing, they then risk losing out on the value generated by these businesses.

~Evan Bolilck is a litigator at Rose Law Group who handles property tax appeals.

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September 2016