Sunday, March 05, 2000

Opponents of Genesis museum end battle

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BURLINGTON — More than three years of opposition to a ministry that wants to build a “creation museum” in Boone County appears to be over.

        Answers in Genesis, an evangelical Christian ministry, apparently has no more roadblocks to its plan to build an $8 million to $10 million, 95,000-square-foot museum/headquarters on 47 acres near Hebron and Interstate 275.

        A group of residents who argued that Boone Fiscal Court's vote to allow a rezoning for the museum was arbitrary has decided not to appeal a February decision by a Kenton County judge who ruled in the ministry's favor.

        “We felt strongly about (the) case, but they don't have the same war chest as Answers in Genesis,” said Jay Fossett, an attorney for the opponents.

        The ministry, which believes in a literal interpretation of the book of Genesis, proposed its museum in 1996. Residents and officials were opposed, and a rezoning for the museum was rejected. A lawsuit was filed, then held in abeyance when Answers in Genesis again filed for a zone change, using a different zone.

        That zoning was approved late last year.

        Residents opposed to the museum argued that because Commissioner Robert Hay had ties to the organization, he should have recused himself from the vote. They attempted to show Mr. Hay's association with members of Answers in Genesis created an appearance of unfairness and impropriety.

        At the February hearing, Kenton Circuit Judge Douglas M. Stephens said it was not appropriate to apply the standard of an appearance of impropriety to a legislative official as is done with judges. Opponents argued Mr. Hay should have been held to that standard.

        “Kentucky law is not clear about how much influence is too much influence by a sitting legislator,” Mr. Fossett said.

        Answers in Genesis' staff will now intensify its efforts to develop a master plan for the site.

        “We're basically going full speed ahead now,” said Mike Zovath, general manager of the ministry. “I don't know if I can pedal any faster.”

        Staff members are working on two things:

        • Design. The group has narrowed the number of potential architects and soon will choose a general contractor.

        “We're going to be the first major building complex in that area, and we're going to set the design for the whole area,” Mr. Zovath said.

        It will be months before residents have a sneak peek at what the inside of the museum will look like. But when design plans are complete, residents will likely be able to tour a virtual version of the museum on the Internet before the actual one is built.

        Officials say the museum will be filled with the kinds of exhibits that are in natural history museums, such as dinosaur replicas, fossils and a DNA exhibit. But they will be presented as a walk-through history of the world from a biblical perspective.

        • Raising money.

        Answers in Genesis organizers say they are working on materials for a capital campaign, which will include producing a video and a brochure about the group's efforts to build the museum and headquarters.

        Board members will likely decide on a consultant to help with the capital campaign by the end of the month.

        Mr. Zovath said he expects Answers in Genesis to close on the property in four or five months and construction to begin by spring 2001. It will be built as donations come in.

        “We hope by spring 2002 it could be open,” he said.


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