Kentucky Tourism Officials Suspend $18 Million Tax Incentive for Noah’s Ark Theme Park Over Transfer of Property to Non-Profit

People walked to the entrance on the Ark Encounter’s opening day. The site near Williamstown features a full-size Noah's Ark, built according to the dimensions given in the Bible. (Charles Bertram, Herald-Leader)
People walked to the entrance on the Ark Encounter’s opening day. The site near Williamstown features a full-size Noah’s Ark, built according to the dimensions given in the Bible. (Charles Bertram, Herald-Leader)

The Kentucky Tourism Arts and Heritage Cabinet has suspended an incentive agreement worth up to $18 million with a Noah’s Ark-themed attraction in Grant County because the park transferred its main property to a non-profit affiliate.

The July 18 cabinet letter to Ark Encounter attorney James Parsons said the ark park’s recent actions put it in breach of the agreement with the state to refund a portion of sales tax collected at the site, which opened last July with a large-scale replica of Noah’s Ark.

The Herald-Leader first reported that on June 28, Ark Encounter transferred a $48 million parcel of land to a non-profit entity, Crosswater Canyon, which is also affiliated with the Creation Museum in Petersburg.

Answers in Genesis, the group behind the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum, disputed that the transfer of the property “created a default.”

But Genesis co-founder Mark Looy pledged Friday in his prepared statement to “comply with concerns that the Tourism Department may have related to the transfer.”

The letter from Tourism’s general counsel B. Leigh Powers said the ark had several violations of the state agreement, including a failure to tell the agency of any change in ownership or get prior written consent to transfer assets. In addition, the agreement stipulated that the tax incentive, approved by the Tourism Development Finance Authority, was made for Ark Encounter. Non-profits can qualify for the tax incentive, but in this case the agreement was with Ark Encounter, not its non-profit affiliate, Crosswater Canyon.

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SOURCE: LINDA BLACKFORD 
Lexington Herald-Leader