Two Woodman’s cases dismissed, another pending
By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – Two legal cases which accused the Village of Howard of excessive taxation at Woodman’s, 2400 Duck Creek Parkway, were dismissed over the past two months in Brown County Circuit Court.
Another case, however, remains pending.
In the two dismissed cases, the latest in an order from Judge Marc Hammer filed Oct. 18 and the other in a Sept. 7 order from Judge Thomas Walsh, lawyers representing Woodman’s sought refunds for four years of property taxes, from 2017-20.
The parties participated in court-ordered mediation, but did not agree to settling the cases, which were dismissed prior to going to trial.
This month, Hammer ordered the case before him be “dismissed in its entirely upon its merits, with prejudice and without costs to any party.”
Mike Denor, who assesses properties for Howard and other area municipalities, said he based his assessment of Woodman’s on what it would cost to develop the property as it’s currently being used.
Denor said he is confident his assessment of the grocery store is not excessive.
According to Brown County land records, the 18.137 acres of property where Woodman’s is located is currently assessed for $12,649,900, based on $4,255,000 for the land and $8,394,900 for the improvements.
County records show Woodman’s paid more than $200,000 in property taxes annually since 2017, with $216,081 paid for 2020.
The case pending in circuit court before Judge Kendall Kelley makes similar arguments as the other cases, but pertains to only the 2021 assessment.
Based on a tax rate of around $17.09 per $1,000 of assessed value, Woodman’s lawyers with the Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren law firm argue the property taxes should be no higher than $80,706, and based on the assessment, the taxes imposed for 2021 may be excessive by at least $126,441.
The lawyers also claim the assessment violates the uniformity clause of the Wisconsin Constitution.
The village is contesting the claim of excessive taxation for 2021 and filed a response to the suit, which also seeks interest and litigation costs.
This is not the first time the village has been in a legal dispute with a retailer over a property tax assessment.
That was also the case with the Menards store, but the company dropped its lawsuit in 2017, when it didn’t reach a settlement for a lower assessment with the village.
Throughout the state, companies have sought to get their assessments lowered through what’s known as the dark store loophole.
The loophole involves commercial retailers and manufacturers challenging the assessed value of their properties by claiming they are worth the same, or close to, the lower assessed value of similar, but empty buildings.
Companies which challenged their assessments in court and won have been able to receive a refund with the affected municipalities having to make up the difference with that lost property tax revenue, with more of the tax burden then falling on homeowners.
Village Administrator Paul Evert said he expects Howard to prevail in the latest suit.
Evert said there have been instances in recent years where municipalities in the state faced cases involving the dark store loophole argument and won, such as when the valuation of Lowe’s stores was upheld.