Category Archives: “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” Franklin D Roosevelt

HB 4397 — Re-Introduces Dark Store Curbs

Dark Stores are back in the news again for Michigan Legislature 2017 season. This is still an issue plaguing our state with devastating effects on and local municipal budgets. The question is: How many services can we cut to meet balanced budgets? How long can people do without full-service municipalities?

David Maturen,  current Vice-Chair of the House Tax Policy Committee, is the primary sponsor of HB 4397 . According to Michigan Township Association, “House Bill 4397 addresses the ongoing crisis of the “Dark Store” property tax appeals issue involving the Michigan Tax Tribunal. Specifically, the bill would require Tax Tribunal members to apply standard appraisal procedures when reaching their findings of facts and conclusions of law in larger property tax cases. The bill is a reintroduction of legislation that was approved in the state House of Representatives in June 2016 by a 97-11 margin.”

The Michigan Municipal League (MML),  Michigan Townships Association (MTA), and  Michigan Association of Counties (MAC) all support this legislation. Check out more of the latest news on this issue via links below:

GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, MI – More than $400,000 in annual revenue for the public purse is at stake in a Spectrum Health dispute before the Michigan Tax Tribunal.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A battle pitting big-box retail giants including Menards and Wal-Mart against Wisconsin towns and cities is headed to the Legislature. Republican-backed proposals, written in conjunction with the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, are designed to close the so-called dark store loophole and increase how much the mega-retailers pay local communities in property taxes.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court is wading into a hot legal dispute over how to value big-box stores for tax purposes. Values lately have been controversial in Michigan, especially in the Upper Peninsula where communities have been forced to give significant tax refunds based on decisions by the Michigan Tax Tribunal.

For a ‘refresher’ or more in-depth introduction to this issue, please go to the “Boxed In” documentary on the events leading up to the June 2016 passage in the MI House. This video was created by Dr. Dwight Brady and his Advanced Multimedia Journalism class at Northern Michigan University.

Call your MI Representative and those members of the House Tax Policy Committee and express your concerns and wishes for a speedy passage.

Why Dark Stores reform matters so much

Here is a recent blog from Michigan Association of Counties – MAC – it says it all….please contact the Senate Finance Committee members and all your downstate friends and relatives and urge them to close this major loophole!!


Posted on August 29, 2016 by macblog2

A new documentary from students at Northern Michigan University tackles the “Dark Stores” property valuation crisis in Michigan. “Boxed In” is an ambitious project, in that it seeks to explain an extraordinarily complicated tax and public policy issue.  Take a look.

But recent coverage from Bloomberg News highlights why this is so important for the entire community. Wal-Mart’s out-of-control crime problem is driving police crazy” focuses mainly on the travails of the Tulsa, Okla., Police Department, but the dynamic exists across Michigan: “Big Box” retailers make big demands on local public services.

“Last year police were called to the store and three other Tulsa Wal-Marts just under 2,000 times,” the story noted. An analysis of 22 Wal-Mart outlets in Michigan has found that their per-square-foot (PSF) property valuations ranged from $5.26 in Sault Ste. Marie to $33.94 in Wayne County’s Woodhaven.

For comparison, the average PSF value for Wal-Marts in its home state of Arkansas is $53.04.

This is the reality of the Dark Stores valuation loophole that “Big Box” retailers like Wal-Mart have been exploiting since 2013 to vastly reduce their values. And, since lower property values equal lower property taxes, local governments have lost at least $100 million in revenue since 2013 due to this loophole.

Nevertheless, retailers — and residents — expect local governments to continue to provide those services vital to a safe, high-quality community. Michigan counties, for one example, spent $1.5 billion on security-related tasks in 2015 alone.

So, if Big Box retailers put demands on public services, yet figure out a way not to pay their fair share of the local property taxes to fund them, who is left holding the bill? — Yep, homeowners and small businesses.

Rep. Dave Maturen (R-Kalamazoo County) drafted House Bill 5578 to ensure a fair and reasonable system of valuing property based on its “highest and best use” in the marketplace. The bill soared through the Michigan House last spring on a 97-11 vote and awaits action by the Michigan Senate this fall.

We can’t think of a better epilogue to “Boxed In’s” tale than the enactment of HB 5578 before 2016 ends.

“Boxed In” — now on YouTube!!

If you missed the Marquette Premier last have more chances…

  1. Another screening of the film will be held Wednesday, August 31, at Bay De Noc Community College in the Besse Theater. The event runs from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

2. Here it is in it’s entirety!! “Boxed In” on You Tube!!

3. Here is Dwight Brady and NMU Communication student’s class “Boxed In” web site with links to the video trailers and upcoming events…

Please watch and follow up with contacts to the Senate Finance Committee members after Labor Day. Urge them to pass HB 5578 out of committee and on to the Governor to sign into loophole closing law. Urge all your downstate relatives and friends to do likewise.

Contact Senate Finance Committee Members

Call, email, or write a letter and tell key legislators (listed below) to Support House Bill 5578, now in the Senate Finance Committee… You may use any of the talking points below or share your own reactions to the Michigan Tax Tribunal’s Dark Store Tax Decisions. Be sure to give your Name, Address, E-mail. This website will provide you with some background information on the bills:

NOTE: If you have relatives or friends in one of the listed Senators’ Districts, please share this information with them and encourage them to contact their Senator, since they would be actual constituents and not easily dismissed.  -download this list below-

  • Michigan Tax Tribunal decisions — the “Dark Store” tax policy — bleeds millions of dollars from Michigan communities.  It’s a scam, a huge tax break for multi-billion dollar corporations.  Businesses pad their bottom line by pulling money from public treasuries.
  • Michigan’s counties, cities, and townships now strain their budgets, forced to make permanent cuts for vital public functions: libraries, schools, police, fire and emergency services, public transit, roads, parks, trails, and programs for youth, seniors, and veterans.
  • Hold corporations responsible to support our communities.  And stop the bleeding of public treasuries.
  • We need ACTION NOW!  House Bill 5578.

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Mailing address for all Senators is the same:
PO Box 30036, Lansing, MI 48909-7536

Senator Steven M BiedaMinority Vice Chair (9th District) – Map

Senator Jack BrandenburgCommittee Chair (8th District) – Map
Mt. Clemens

Senator Marty Knollenberg (13th District) – Map

Senator John Proos (21st District) – Map
Benton Harbor

Senator David Robertson, Committee Vice Chair (14th District) – Map

Senator Rebekah Warren (18th District) – Map
Ann Arbor

Download this list – send to your friends and relatives downstate and encourage them to contact the committee legislators in their districts… Film Leg. Update – Key Senators contact info-2 to contact Senate Finance Committee Key Legislators –


MI HOUSE — You do not need to contact StateHouse members at this time, except to thank them on their passage on this legislation:

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Mailing address for all Representatives is the same:
PO Box 30014, Lansing, MI 48909-7514

Wendell Byrd (3rd District) – Map
Detroit (Wayne County)

Lee Chatfield (107th District) – Map
Sault Ste Marie, St Ignace, Petoskey, Harbor Springs,Cheboygan
(Cheboygan, Chippewa, Mackinaw, Emmet Counties)

Paul Clemente (14th District) – Map
Lincoln Park, Melvindale, Riverview, Wyandotte (Wayne County)

Jeff FarringtonCommittee Chair (30th District) – Map
Sterling Heights, Utica (Macomb County)

Gary Glenn (98th District) – Map
Auburn, Pinconning, Midland (Bay & Midland Counties)

Martin Howrylak (41st District) – Map
Troy, Clawson (Oakland County)

Brandt Iden (61st District) – Map
Portage (Kalamazoo County)

Bill LaVoy (17th District) – Map
Monroe, Flatrock, Rockford (Monroe & Wayne Counties)

David MaturenCommittee Vice Chair (63rd District) – Map
Marshall, Galesburg (Calhoun, Kalamazoo County)

Pat Somerville (23rd District) – Map
Trenton, Woodhaven, Gibraltar (Wayne County)

Jim Townsend, Committee Vice Chair (26th District) – Map
Madison Heights, Royal Oak (Oakland County)

Michael Webber (45th District)- Map
Rochester, Rochester Hills (Oakland County)

Ken Yonker (72nd District) – Map
Kentwood, Wayland (Allegan, Kent Counties)


(Compiled by Marge Forslin)

Here’s Why the “Boxed In” Documentary Is So Important

 The effects of ‘Dark Store’ rulings affect us all. Recent House legislation needs your show of support to the Senate Finance Committee (download a list of Senators to contact below)… here’s what we mean:

Representative David Maturen,  David_MaturenVice-Chair, MI House Tax Policy Committee was tasked to form a work group eventually leading to HB 5578. Which was passed in the House this Spring of  2016. He speaks on:
“Boxed In” video documentary from NMU, featuring an interview and hearing clip on ‘Dark Store’ problems and policies and 
hear a rundown of lengthy list of Deed Restrictions also associated with these rulings. See a Preview Clip...

AND SO — on to the Premier of “Boxed In” Wed. August 24th in Marquette at 7:00 at Peter White Public Library. A premiere is also scheduled for Aug. 31 in Escanaba, and it will air publicly at 8 p.m. Sept. 1 on WNMU-TV.

AND SO — on to the Senate Finance Committee …. This is where we all come in!

Please contact your Senators:
Here is a current list: Film Leg. Update – Key Senators contact info-2  Tell them you support ‘Dark Store’ legislation sent to them from the House.

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Follow the progress of they bill at: Michigan Legislature page!!

You can follow Rep. Maturen on Facebook for updates on the progress in the House Tax Policy Committee.

If you have friends and relatives downstate, let them know they can influence/inform their legislators, too. This issue is affecting the entire state budget….reducing funding for local communities across the board. Please share this website with friends, family, and organizations across the state.

CORRECTION: It’s Here — “Boxed In” Dark Store Documentary by NMU

In the dark on the Dark Store issue? 

Attend a Premiere presentation of the Video “Boxed In” August 24TH, 7:00 at PWPL  — See the trailer, come and share with your community!

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Sponsored by Marquette County Citizens for Fair Share!! 

MI House Said YES — 97 to 11 for HB 5578 & More…

Pass_HB5578_toSenateA good day, a good month for putting local funding needs back in local control. Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Radio, and others (see our Resources page) have spoken out loud and long against the unfair and unorthodox methods of assessment used to justify ‘dark store’ rulings by MI Tax Tribunal. And municipalities have been suffering huge losses that have crippled and curtailed many local services.

Now some good news: 

MI Appeals Court ruled against Menards: “… a three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the City of Escanaba and against Menard Inc. in just such a dispute.
The court said the comparable sales submitted by Menards were not a good basis for determining taxable value because, like many former big box stores that close and become vacant, they had deed restrictions that limited how a new owner could use the properties.”

More good news: 

MI House Said YES — 97 to 11 for HB 5578. The bill is on to the Senate Finance Committee. After four years and three tries, this is looking very positive. David Maturen, Vice-Chair, MI House Tax Policy Committee and primary sponsor who, along with UP Representatives John Kivela and Scott Dianda and others, have successfully rallied support and reason to pass this out of the House.

Here is Maturn speaking to the House just before passage: on You Tube…

View the NMU documentary “Boxed In”  covering this whole saga in depth. See the research and background uncovered by Dr. Dwight Brady’s Advanced Multimedia Journalism class at Northern Michigan University.

Thanks to all — we are finally moving toward support for the people & communities all over Michigan.

Update on HB 5578 – Getting Closer to Closing that Loophole!

The Hearings Are Over
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There have been two hearings on HB 5578 in the MI House Tax Policy Committee these past two weeks. Many organizations and officials from all over the state have weighed in…the Michigan Townships Association, Michigan Municipal League, individual Counties and other interests have brought their comments to the table.

The Primary sponsor of this bill, Representative David Maturen, is optimistic as he stated in a recent Mining Journal article:
“We had lots of cards of support and lots of cards of opposition,” Maturen said. “You never know until you take the vote, but at this point, I’ve got a good feeling about it.”
“It’s kind of a complex issue. To me, it’s not all that complex, but to people who aren’t familiar with tax valuation or the Michigan Tax Tribunal, it may be,” he said. “Many of the fears are unfounded or from a lack of understanding of how the process works. I’m trying to do what I can to address their concerns.”

What Can You Do?

1.  Contact your state representative – our UP Representatives, John Kivela and Scott Dianda are co-sponsors for this legislation.
Kevin Gawronski, Committee Clerk of MI House Tax Policy Committee 517-373-2002


Jeff Farrington (R) Committee Chair, 30th District
David Maturen (R) Majority Vice-Chair, 63rd District (primary sponsor of HB 5578)
Pat Somerville (R) 23rd District
Ken Yonker (R) 72nd District
Martin Howrylak (R) 41st District
Lee Chatfield (R) 107th District
Gary Glenn (R) 98th District
Brandt Iden (R) 61st District
Michael Webber (R) 45th District
Jim Townsend (D) Minority Vice-Chair, 26th District
Paul Clemente (D) 14th District
Bill LaVoy (D) 17th District
Wendell Byrd (D) 3rd District

2. Follow the progress of this bill online:

3. Share this post with downstate friends and relatives…thanks.

It’s Here – HB 5578! Let’s Close That Loophole!


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Finally,  a bill that actually will get a hearing in committee after 3 years of trying by our state legislators. Possibly the workshop and support from legislators in the Lower Peninsula of MI made the difference. House Bill 5578 is sponsored by Representative David Maturen, R-Brady Twp., near Kalamazoo and Scott Dianda- D from Calumet.

 “The Michigan Tax Tribunal, in recent decisions, has taken into account sales of ‘dark stores’ — vacant structures that most often have deed restrictions — when determining the assessed value of fully functional big box retail stores,” said Rep. Maturen. “This legislation eliminates the ‘dark store’ loophole, and creates fair policies that will be used for all assessment disputes heard by the entire Tax Tribunal.”

Representative John Kivela – D, Marquette along with Senator Tom Casperson- R have twice sponsored legislation in the last few years. “I want to thank Rep. Maturen for introducing HB 5578, while also thanking all of those who participated alongside me in the workgroup which helped lead to the development of this legislation,”
said Kivela. “This bill creates a level playing field for local governments when arguing cases at the Michigan Tax Tribunal.

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According to a summary of the highlights the, “Legislation would amend the Tax Policy and add a new section that would require that Tribunal Members independently make specific findings of fact and conclusions of law in their opinion regarding: the market for the property under appeal, the  highest and best use of the property in its market, require consideration of all methods of value including the income method, the sales method, the cost method and the assessment method.”

Municipal League MI Tax Tribunal Overview document linked in our Resources page outlines these three recommended methods for “highest and best use.”

Here’s hoping that Dave Maturen’s workgroup and Scott Dianda’s support will prove the old adage: “third time’s a charm” and we can get this done! Please continue to contact your legislators to let them know you want it done, too.

Download the legislation HB 5578: 2016-HIB-5578
Download a summary of the highlight of this legislation:  Maturen Tax Bill info


Coming Soon: The Michigan Dark Store Documentary!!!

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Video Team member, Michael Williams, tells us the how and why of this video project. He needs your help to bring the final interviews and editing touches to a successful finish….Read and Help! Thanks….

“Hey friends, I’m helping make a mini-documentary about the Michigan Dark Store issue. Our team includes a videographer, a broadcasting professor at Northern Michigan University and myself. That’s it.

In recent years, the Michigan Tax Tribunal has approved large reductions to property taxes for Big Box stores. Stores that successfully appealed their taxes are now being charged as if they are vacant, hence the term “Dark Store.” In extreme cases, their values are slashed by more than 50 percent. And it’s communities who have to make up the difference.

So here’s the synopsis: We’ve been working for months to solidify interviews with experts (like attorneys and politicians working on both sides of the issue), as well as studying to make sure we understand it. And after the shooting is done, we’ll go back to volunteering our hours to see it through. By the end, we plan to have several different cuts for educational, broadcast and social media purposes. We just need to get there.

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So the money we need to raise would go to gas and food, and any surprises the road throws us. From May 2 to May 5 we will be covering a lot of miles, from Marquette to Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo to Lansing to Flint and back. At least. All we need is enough money to break even. We realize this is short notice, but we also know that any little bit helps us get there.

We’ve been working hard for months already, and now it’s go time. We will be so, so thankful to each and every dollar put toward this project. We promise it will not be spent in vain. Trust us, if you haven’t heard about the Dark Stores yet, you will in a few years.

So please help us reach this goal. For how much ground we’ll be covering in a short amount of time, we feel this is a modest amount to make sure we are fed and gassed up.

Again, any and all is beyond appreciated.
Here’s an article that explains the issue better than we could in a few paragraphs:”

Click this link to Donate: 

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