MISHAWAKA — St. Joseph County will refund more than $500,000 in property taxes collected from Meijer after agreeing that assessments of the chain's Bremen Highway store here should have been lower from 2006 through 2011.
A law firm representing County Assessor Rosemary Mandrici agreed to settle the appeal of the store's property assessments filed by Meijer with the Indiana Board of Tax Review, according to an agreement by the parties.
With the settlement, the county avoided having the Indianapolis-based tax review board resolve the appeal at a hearing in June.
Frank Agostino, deputy county attorney who represents Mandrici, said it made sense to settle the appeal, but he declined to provide details about the legal strategy.
"That's where the evidence pointed to go," he said.
The settlement comes as Meijer and other big-box retailers — faced with challenges as more people shop online — are looking to slash property taxes by arguing stores should be taxed the same way as vacant ones, also known as dark stores.
At the heart of the legal debate is a question: Is the value of a store limited to the structure itself, or is it linked to sales that go on inside?
Unlike big-box retailers, the county has argued that stores should be compared only to others that are operating — not empty ones.