City officials are tensed about a legal standoff with the Ark Encounter.
Ark Encounter, the biblical amusement park, has sold the land on which it stands to Crosswater Canyon, its non-profit affiliate, for a princely sum of $10. According to the property valuation administrator of Grant County, the property value comes to $48 million. The value on the deed is only $18.5 million.
Williamstown officials are now afraid that the sale of property worth $48 million only for $10 is the first step to avoid any tax payments. The doubt has been voiced by Kim Crupper, the councilman of Williamstown City, that such a move could portend a series of subsequent financial moves by Ark Encounter which will impact more than the city.
On June 29, Jeffrey Shipp, the attorney of Williamstown City, sent a letter to Ark Encounter. He wrote that the city has rejected the company's request to be exempt from a newly introduced safety tax. The reason cited is that it is a religious organization. The council had approved a 50-cent tax to be levied on every admission ticket which was sold at the Ark Encounter to modernize the emergency services of the city. Tickets are priced at $40 and $28 for adults and children respectively.
According to the Creationists management running the show at Ark Encounter, they must be exempt from these charges as they administer a not-for-profit ministry. The problem lies there. The company, until now, was a for-profit business concern. This status enabled it to garner numerous tax incentives. This is the reason the Williamstown authorities thought the park authorities will pay off. Their logic is that the place is a tourist attraction made solely for profit.To avoid paying taxes, Ark Encounter sold its land to its subsidiary for $10. To put it in concise terms, the Ark Encounter company took advantage of its for-profit status for enjoying tax breaks. When this was done, and the land sold to Crosswater Canyon, the company management informed city officials that they administer a non-profit ministry.
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Melany Ethridge, the spokeswoman for Ark, did not offer any answers when questioned concerning the future tax status of the park or any possible lawsuit. In defense, she said that authorities of the company continue to be hopeful of reaching an agreement with the city about safety tax.