Georgia County is still striving for a spaceport that voters rejected

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) – Georgia County officials are moving forward with plans to build a launch pad for commercial rockets less than a month after residents voted to stop the project by a margin of nearly 3-to-1.

Coastal commissioners in coastal Camden County confirmed in a statement on Thursday that they had voted earlier this week to “approve the purchase of … property where the spaceport would be located.”

The decision followed a referendum on March 8 in which 72% of voters tried to stop the project by disregarding the Commissioners’ advance vote to buy land for the proposed Camden spaceport.

Camden County officials have spent the past decade and more than $ 10 million searching for a commercial spaceport to launch satellites into orbit. Commissioners say the project would provide economic growth not only from rocket launches, but also by attracting related industries and tourists to the community of 55,000 people on the Georgia-Florida route.

Opponents say plans to build the spaceport on an industrial site previously used to manufacture pesticides and ammunition pose potential environmental and safety risks that outweigh any economic benefits. They forced the referendum by collecting more than 3,500 signatures from registered voters to put the project on the ballot.

Critics, including the National Park Service, say that rockets that explode shortly after launch can rain fiery debris on Little Cumberland Island, which has about 40 private homes, and neighboring Cumberland Island, a federally protected wilderness visited by about 60,000 tourists each year.

A large loss at the polling stations has not stopped county officials. Commissioners called a meeting on Tuesday and voted unanimously to inform Union Carbide Co., which owns the 4,000 acres (1,600 hectares) industrial site where the county hopes to build the spaceport, that they plan to proceed with the land purchase.

“It is a continuation of arrogance and ignorance and simply does not represent the will of the people,” said space port critic John Goodman, an elected councilor for the city of St. Louis. Marys in Camden County. He said commissioners defied “a very clear indication from citizens not to be in the spaceport industry.”

Goodman was one of the opponents of the space port who sued earlier this year to stop the county from buying the land before the referendum could be held. He said they would probably go back to court to ask a judge again to stop the purchase.

The referendum repealed the spaceport project at a critical time. After years of study and scrutiny, the Federal Aviation Administration granted Camden County a license in December to build and operate the spaceport, which would join 12 others already operating in the United States.

But before the commissioners could complete the purchase of the property, a judge ordered that the land deal be presented to the voters.

Commissioners said in a statement on Thursday that they expect Georgia’s Supreme Court to declare the referendum invalid. The county has an appeal pending before the court which claims that the state constitution does not allow voters to veto state projects such as the spaceport. No date has been set for processing the case.

Commissioners have previously rejected the referendum, in which 17% of registered voters voted, as it reflects the will of a “bare minority”. Steve Howard, the county administrative board’s administrator, has recently said that the county is looking for private investors to help finance the spaceport. Then came the vote on Tuesday to proceed with the land purchase.

“The board determined that it was in the county’s best interest to proceed in this way to protect the launch site’s operator license that was recently issued and the millions of dollars the county has so far invested in the spaceport,” the commissioners said. said the statement.

It remains to be seen if the landowner agrees to sell to Camden County with litigation over the spaceport. Union Carbide said in a statement on Thursday that it was evaluating the company’s option agreement with Camden County “in light of the county’s ongoing litigation.”

New Technology Era

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