The group that owns the theme park Ark Encounters have sold the park to their nonprofit affiliates for 10 dollars to avoid paying taxes, according to a report Monday by the Lexington Herald-Leader. The Christian theme park in Williamstown, Kentucky is owned by creationist Ken Ham and features a life-sized recreation of Noah's Ark.
Ark Encounter LLC sold the park's land on June 28 to its nonprofit affiliate, Crosswater Canyon, for ten dollars, just a day before the city sent a letter rejecting the organization's request to be exempted from a new safety tax because of its religious affiliation.
By selling the land to its nonprofit counterpart, the group has claimed that the park is a non-profit establishment and not subject to the new safety tax passed by city officials. The safety tax, if implemented by the city, would collect 50 cents of every entry ticket sold on $40 adult tickets and $28 children's tickets.
The theme park pulls in an estimated 1.4 million visitors a year, which, when the safety tax was imposed, means the company would owe the city of Williamstown approximately $700,000.
Ark Encounter has, up to this point, identified themselves legally as a for-profit business in order to receive a number of tax incentives from the city. When city officials voted to impose the 50-cent safety tax, the theme-park argued that the property should be exempt because they run a non-profit ministry.
The property is worth $48 million, according to the Grant County property valuation, although the deed said that the property is only worth only $18.5 million, the Lexington Herald Leader reported.
The amusement park is owned by the infamous creationist, Ken Ham, who owns both Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum. Ham's organization sold the land one day before Williamstown city attorney, Jeffrey Shipp, sent a letter to the organization rejecting its request to be exempted from a new safety tax.
Williamstown City Councilman Kim Crupper told the Herald-Leader that the taxes the city's council approved in April were necessary because repairs are needed to upgrade the city’s emergency services that cover the park, which include the police and fire department
"This ordinance was carefully thought out, this does not affect their bottom line," Crupper told the Herald-Leader. "We have to make sure your police and fire and emergency services can assure safety. If you’re going to pay $40 for a ticket and $10 to park, I don’t think you’re going to argue over 50 cents."
Melany Ethridge, the spokeswoman for Ark Encounter, said in a statement to the Herald-Leader that the amusement park looks to work with city officials to find a "fair" solution regarding the safety tax.
"The Ark Encounter seeks to pay its fair share when it comes to a safety fee assessment recently instituted by the city of Williamstown," Ethridge said. "The Ark Encounter has conveyed that sincere sentiment to Williamstown's leadership and will continue to work with city officials to find a fair and equitable solution regarding contributions to the safety fund."