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Ky. Tourism Cabinet: Ark Encounter In Breach Of State Tax Rebate Deal

Josh James
Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky on July 8, 2017.

The Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet has notified officials with the Ark Encounter theme park in Williamstown that the attraction is in breach of its Tourism Development Agreement, the deal providing for up to $18 million in state tax breaks.

WUKY has confirmed the letter sent to park operators by the cabinet’s general counsel on July 18 points to the recent transfer of $48 million in park land from a for-profit entity, Ark Encounter LLC, to a non-profit affiliate, Crosswater Canyon. The notice, obtained by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, indicates that further tax rebates would stop accruing on June 28.

"We believe that that your client is aware that they may not be eligible for state tax incentives if the Ark Project is owned by a legal non-profit entity," the letter reads, citing an arkencounter.com statement indicating the for-profit LLC structure allows the park to be "eligible for various economic incentives" that would not have been available with a non-profit structure.

In a press release, FFRF takes aim at the park, with co-president Dan Barker adding, "It is highly immoral for an entity supposedly founded on morality to engage in behavior like this."

Ark Encounter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The park recently marked its one-year anniversary, announcing that over a million visitors have toured the attraction since the doors opened in July 2016. The celebration also drew about 75 demonstrators the following day, many of whom cited the park's tax incentives and hiring policy as reasons to oppose the attraction.

A Tourism Cabinet spokesperson said the park has 30 days to rectify the issue.

Update (2:24 p.m.): Mark Looy, the co-founder of Answers in Genesis, has released a statement: "We have been in contact with the counsel for the Tourism Department regarding the recently received letter. We don't believe the transfer of the property created a default, but we will comply with concerns that the Tourism Department may have related to the transfer. We are appreciative of the support we have received from the governor and tourism officials, and look forward to maintaining a positive relationship with the state long into the future."

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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