Assembly unanimously passes legislation to end ‘dark store’ assessment challenges

Bill would ensure assessors follow common sense guidelines when utilizing assessment methods. 

Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski announced the Assembly unanimously passed his legislation that would establish clear and unambiguous guidelines for assessors to utilize when formulating assessments (A4752-C).

This bill is in response to the proliferation of the use of the “dark store” strategy by businesses, particularly big box retailers in New York. The “dark store” strategy is where commercial property owners challenge their tax assessment by using vacant stores or properties as comparable values; arguing that their value should be aligned with properties that are not in use.

This strategy has succeeded in several court challenges throughout New York resulting in a sharp reduction in tax assessments for big box retailers; shifting the tax burden to homeowners. 

“When big corporations skirt their taxes through high paid attorneys, homeowners foot the bill. The dark store theory threatens our tax base by allowing businesses to exploit the assessment challenge process by comparing the current use of a business to vacant lots. The argument, that vibrant businesses should be valued as if they are closed, is incomprehensible. This bill puts into law guidelines and standards by which assessments should be based; providing courts with common sense direction in valuing properties,” said Zebrowski.

The legislation would require that properties selected as comparable properties for an assessment must be similar in use, size, location and other characteristics. These standards are currently used by assessors in formulating assessments and by placing in law, will provide guidance for courts evaluating competing assessments.

Kenneth Paul Zebrowski is a Democratic member of the New York State Assembly, from the 96th district, representing the communities of Clarkstown and Haverstraw, and portions of the Town of Ramapo, including the villages of Pomona, Wesley Hills, and most of New Hempstead. Prior to his election to the Assembly he served in the Rockland County Legislature.

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