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7/6/2015 9:22:00 AM
County assessors fear tax impact of 'dark store' valuation sought by big-box stores
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Herald-Times file photo

Megan Banta, Herald-Times

Tax refunds and a steep decline in the property tax base are at stake as counties across the state and the country, including Monroe County, battle a new tactic that big retailers are using to slash their property taxes.

County assessors value real estate based on the current condition of the business, but big-box chains across the country are pushing to have their buildings compared to others that have been vacated and sold. Appraisers across the nation refer to this tactic as the "dark store" method.

The county currently is battling at the state level with Lowe's over the assessment of the company's store in Whitehall Crossing on Bloomington's west side after the national retailer appealed its assessment in June 2014.

Monroe County Assessor Judy Sharp called the case "the one that broke my back."

Lowe's built its store on the 12.81-acre site in 1999, and the retailer and county settled on what both considered to be a fair assessment of $74 per square foot, which amounts to about $9.4 million total, Sharp said.

But last summer, an attorney from Indianapolis-based law firm Faegre Baker Daniels came in and handed her an appeal for the property. The national retailer was asking to take the value for the store down to $30 per square foot for a total property value of about $4.2 million.

The case is still ongoing, but if the retailer wins, the county will have to pay back more than half of the company's $230,960.18 tax payment from last year, plus interest, Sharp said.

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