Legislator will try again for information on Ark Park

lblackford@herald-leader.comMarch 11, 2011 

The state tourism department cannot withhold information about a Bible-themed amusement park without giving justification for its decision, the state attorney general's office has ruled.

State legislator Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, made an open records request for the economic impact studies for the proposed Ark Encounter park in Grant County because it was granted preliminary approval for tax incentives, he said.

The tourism department issued a blanket refusal for the information, saying it was proprietary information that was confidentially disclosed to the agency.

The Ark Park project — based on a life-size replica of Noah's Ark — could earn up to $37 million in sales tax rebates if it receives final approval. The tourism department is doing its own economic impact study.

However, the attorney general said the department "failed to meet the assigned burden of proof" that the disputed records are confidential and could have given a brief description of the competitive harm their release would cause.

Owens said he would file another request for the information.

"My concern is what the basis is for the preliminary approval of these tax incentives," he said.

Tourism officials said they were studying the opinion.

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