Dark Store Ordinance – Wauwatosa, WI

In 2005 the city of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, adopted a big-box ordinance that requires new retail stores over 50,000 square feet contribute 20 cents per square foot of building’s total size to the city’s Land Conservation Fund before the city will grant them a building permit.  The fund can be used to redevelop the site if the building is vacated and proper removal or reuse of the building is not planned.


Full Text of the Wauwatosa "Dark Store" Code


24.25.040 Maintenance and reuse of properties.

Unlessotherwise specifically provided in a developer’s agreement approved by the common council, all parcels or development sites with a total of fifty thousand square feet or more of new retail development shall be subject to the following provisions:

A. The owner shall maintain the property in compliance with all provisions of the Wauwatosa Municipal Code or a plan approved as part of a developer’s agreement approved by the common council. If the property is not found to be in compliance with the code or the approved plan, the city may take action to correct the situation, after providing the owner or operator with notice of the defective condition and an opportunity to cure the alleged defective condition. Costs of any such corrective action by the city shall be assessed as a special charge against the property, to be added to the property tax bill pursuant to Section 66.0627 of the Wisconsin Statutes.

B. If the facility is vacated, the owner or operator, within twelve months, shall submit, to the plan commission, a plan contemplating the removal or reuse of the facility. The time limit may be extended by the plan commission. If the owner or operator is unable to provide a plan which is acceptable to the plan commission, the city may utilize the Land Conservation Fund described in Section 20.14, Charter Ordinances, or other funds which may be made available for such purpose, to take whatever action is permitted by law to assure appropriate redevelopment or reuse of the facility.

C. Prior to issuance of a building permit for any development subject to these provisions, the building owner shall be required to contribute to the Land Conservation Fund described in Section 20.14, Charter Ordinances, city of Wauwatosa. The amount of such contribution shall be calculated based upon the number of square feet of retail space being created, and shall be as set forth in the consolidated fee schedule. (Ord. O-05-7 § 3 (part), 2005)

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Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its Independent Business Initiative, which produces research and designs policy to counter concentrated corporate power and strengthen local economies.