City prepares to defend taxable value after Meijer files appeal with state

SWARTZ CREEK — City officials are gearing up for another tax battle, this time with retail giant Meijer.

The retailer has filed an appeal with the Michigan Tax Tribunal, asking to have the taxable value – about 50 percent of true cash value – of their property in Swartz Creek lowered to $2,884,935, down from $4,258,627.

City manager Adam Zettel called the appeal “frustrating and damaging.”

“If they get this, we would have been better off if they’d never built here,” Zettel said.

The store sits on a 58-acre site that includes a gas station, a land lease to Biggby Coffee, and about 150,000 square feet of retail space with internal tenants, plus outdoor sales.

Meijer supports benevolent programs such as the Swartz Creek Community Food Basket and Shop With A Hero, but it also requires considerable community services such as police and fire protection, not to mention the strain on the roads, city officials said.

“We respond to their theft claims,” Zettel said. “We added a lane to Morrish Road. There is trash and there are car fires. We want them to pay taxes sufficient to cover their expenses and that reflects their investment. They give with one hand and take with the other. Meijer costs us money to be here if their valuation is granted.”

Mayor David Krueger proposed working with other neighboring communities, such as Davison Township, to fight the appeals.

“We need to ask, if it’s only worth $4 million, please explain the business strategy for spending $30 million to build it,” Krueger said.

He added that the city also has the right to eminent domain, and if the property is determined to be worth $4 million, the city could seize it for that amount and rent the space to Meijer or some other retailer.

The appeal has city officials rethinking their approach to welcoming big box retailers and other large investors to the community. The city would be better off with more housing developments, which demand fewer city services and pay more taxes, Zettel said.

“I will continue to work with Meijer,” he said. “But if we have to be aggressive in our defense, I think we should pursue those routes.”