Noah's Ark project seeks state tax incentives
Answers in Genesis wants to build the $73-million dollar project in Grant County.
Monday, July 28th 2014, 3:20 pm EDT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The developer of a proposed Noah's Ark theme park in northern Kentucky is once again asking for the state's help to launch the project.
The request has rekindled debate about the proper use of tax dollars.
Answers In Genesis, the group behind the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky, now wants to create a new tourist attraction: The Ark Encounter.
On Tuesday, it will ask the state to grant tax incentives to help float the project.
Answers in Genesis launched the Ark project at a special ceremony in May.
The plan is to build a $73 million, life-size replica of Noah's Ark as described in the Bible.
Supporters say it would attract between 1.5 and 2 million visitors a year.
" [It's] A phenomenal, phenomenal opportunity here to bring people into the state," said Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham in May.
The Ark project is asking for up to $18.5 million in tax incentives under a program designed to encourage new tourist attractions.
It gives a 25% rebate of the sales taxes the project collects over 10 years.
"The state is not putting any money into this project up front. It is through a tax rebate which is based on their sales. So, it's only after it's been built and opened is their any incentive provided to the applicant," said Gil Lawson, spokesman for the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.
This is a scaled down version of the original Noah's Ark project. In 2011, the state approved tax incentives for a much-larger, $173 million project.
Because of funding problems, it never floated.
Once again, opponents are raising church-state objections to the project receiving tax breaks.
"This is going to be a taxpayer-funded ministry. And it's the ministry part of it and the taxpayer funding part of it that we don't want mixed together," said Ed Hensley of the Louisville Atheist and Freethinkers Society.
But supporters, such as Gov. Steve Beshear, see the Ark Encounter as an economic development project.
"It will bring in tourists, and they will spend a lot of money not only at the tourist attraction itself but in our stores and all around the area. Number two, it will hire Kentuckians. And really what we're really looking for, bottom line, is jobs for our people," he said.
No one from the Ark Encounter project was available for an interview.
If the Tourism Development Finance Authority gives preliminary approval Tuesday, it will then conduct its own study to confirm the project's economic impact.
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