On June 29, Williamstown city attorney Jeffrey Shipp sent a letter to the biblical amusement park Ark Encounter, rejecting its request to be exempted from a new safety tax because its is a religious organization.This came about because the city of Williamstown, in order to shore up its police department and roads, decided to impose a 50-cent tax on each ticket sold at the Ark Encounter. Tickets run $40 for adults, plus $10 for parking.
Shipp said it was clear that Ark Encounter is a for-profit entity, which is how it has been listed with the Kentucky secretary of state’s office since 2011.
But the day before, Ark Encounter LLC sold its main parcel of land — the one with the large-scale Noah’s Ark — for $10 to its nonprofit affiliate, Crosswater Canyon. Although the property is worth $48 million according to the Grant County property valuation administrator, the deed says its value is only $18.5 million.
That’s the latest salvo in an escalating dispute between local officials and Ark Encounter, but some people are worried that Ark Encounter’s maneuver is a precursor to declaring itself exempt from all taxes, including property taxes that help finance Grant County schools.
“I believe this is the first step,” Williamstown city councilman Kim Crupper said. “The impact would be far larger than just Williamstown.”
The council is scheduled to meet Tuesday night with Ark officials to continue talking about their differences, but Crupper and Mayor Rick Skinner said they think a lawsuit is imminent.
The mayor, Rick Skinner stated that the taxes would add up to approximately $700,000. Numerous reports already circulate the the Ark Encounter has brought next to no business to the local economy. All of this comes after the Ark Encounter, LLC received some incredible tax breaks. From the Lexington Herald Leader story:
The tax break allows approved tourism sites to recover as much as 25 percent of their investment through a rebate of state sales taxes paid by visitors. The theme park also will receive tax breaks from Grant County and the city of Williamstown. The state also designated $11 million in road funds for an expanded interchange off Interstate 75.If this is true, this is a huge black eye for the Ark Encounter and paints a huge target on Christianity. While I have no respect for Mr. Ham and consider this theme park monstrosity one of the most egregious examples of the Disney-ization of Christianity, its effect will reach much further than Williamstown, especially if a lawsuit occurs. What will strike your average reader is that Ken Ham, after using every trick in the book to get the ark-n-park built, is now shirking his responsibility to the community because his ark is not bringing in the numbers that he thought it would. This will, further, give ammunition to those who do not agree with the tax exemption of churches.
It all looks very suspicious and underhanded on the part of Ken Ham and Ark Encounter, LLC. Blackford's article closes with this:
Skinner said he is disappointed in how the town’s relationship with Ark officials has deteriorated, but he said he would wait to comment further until Tuesday’s meeting.