HomePoliticsCounty prepping for possible lawsuit from Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club

County prepping for possible lawsuit from Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club

When the Madison County Commission’s budget committee met last week, one item that was discussed on the agenda was unusual, but it’s apparently happening across the country and the County is preparing for it.

County Attorney Jay Bush let the committee as well as other commissioners and county officials in the room know they’re preparing for a legal battle with some of the larger national corporations who have locations in Madison County including Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and Lowe’s.

Bush said that for about a decade now, big box stores like these have appealed local municipalities in other states arguing for lower property tax rates based on what Bush said is called the “dark store theory.”

“They say their stores should be valued as if vacant because if they were to vacate the building today, the store would be obsolete because nothing else could go in there,” Bush said.

Apparently these appeals have been happening since 2010 with varying degrees of success, the main one being in Michigan in which a court ruled in favor of the stores in 2014.

According to Kevin Mills, the deputy assessor and chief appraiser for the County, the small win in Michigan is enough for the corporations’ legal teams in other states to make similar legal claims in other states.

Those claims have made their way to Tennessee.

Bush said Lowe’s has appealed its property tax rates for both Jackson locations since 2014. Appeals by Wal-Mart and Sam’s dates back to 2017. The hearing for Wal-Mart is scheduled for Dec. 4 before an administrative law judge for the State Board of Equalization. One for Sam’s has been scheduled for the following day. A hearing for Lowe’s has not been scheduled.

Property Assessor Frances Hunley asked the committee to approve funding for a lawyer who’s experienced in that kind of work as well as getting help with expert witness testimony if needed.

“They County has retained Robert Lee because he has expertise in this and has worked for the Comptroller’s office, so he has experience on both sides,” Bush said.

The committee approved to recommend the move to the full County Commission next week in their meeting on Monday because the County could stand to lose a large portion of their property tax revenue if it were to lose in the case.

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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