Williamstown leaders worry Ark Encounter's $10 sale to nonprofit will harm Grant Co.'s tax revenue

WILLIAMSTOWN, Ky. — The land upon which Ark Encounter, the enormous replica of Noah’s biblical ship, came to rest has been sold for $10 to its owner’s nonprofit affiliate, Crosswater Canyon.

Williamstown officials now worry the sale of the $48 million property for a mere 10 bucks is a maneuver to avoid paying any taxes, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.

“I believe this is the first step,” Williamstown City Councilman Kim Crupper told the newspaper. “The impact would be far larger than just Williamstown.”

In April, the council approved a 50-cent tax on every admission ticket sold at $40 for adults and $28 for kids, telling the Herald-Leader the taxes are needed to upgrade the city’s emergency services that cover the park, which includes a petting zoo and zipline.

“This ordinance was carefully thought out, this does not affect their bottom line,” Crupper said. “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.”

Grant County Executive Steven Wood said he’s “shocked” Ark Encounter isn’t willing to comply with the ordinance. 

“I just can't see how 50 cents a ticket can hurt them at all. I just can't see it. I don't see their side of it,” Wood said. 

Mayor Rick Skinner told the Herald-Leader that losing property taxes for the park would harm the city, Grant County and its schools. Skinner told the newspaper he was “disappointed” in how much the town’s relationship with Ark Encounter officials had deteriorated, but he declined to comment further until after a Tuesday evening council meeting to discuss the matter.

Ark Encounter spokeswoman Melany Ethridge provided a statement to the Herald-Leader, saying they “remain hopeful” that they can find some common ground will Williamstown leaders on the city’s 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.”

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