Land sale | Georgia County sues to require the sale of land for a spaceport

Land sale | Georgia County sues to require the sale of land for a spaceport

A Georgia county has launched a lawsuit to compel a business to sell it 4,000 acres on which the county intends to construct a commercial rocket launch pad.

AP — SAVANNAH, Georgia A county in Georgia has launched a lawsuit to compel a business to sell land that it has long intended to use as a launchpad for commercial rockets.

If permitted to continue, Union Carbide Co.’s reluctance to sell the 1,600 hectares (4,000 acres) site, according to a statement from Camden County commissioners on Thursday, “would cause the County the loss of the Spaceport Project as well as an immense financial loss over $11 million.”

Over the past ten years, county officials have spent that money on the licensing and construction of Spaceport Camden, a facility for satellite launches. According to the project’s detractors, the environmental and safety concerns outweigh any financial advantages. In a referendum held by the county in March, a sizable majority chose to reject the land sale.

The vote, which the commissioners claim breached the Georgian constitution, was rejected. However, despite the county’s best efforts, Union Carbide refused to proceed with the property’s closing. The business said last week that the agreement was off because voters had “repudiated” it.

The county seeks to keep the spaceport idea alive by filing a civil lawsuit in Camden County Superior Court on Wednesday. The corporation is still under a “contractual responsibility to sell the land,” according to commissioners.

According to the statement from the commissioners, “The County thinks that Union Carbide’s real motivation for repudiating the contract had nothing to do with the referendum but was instead to allow Union Carbide to make more money on the property than what the County had promised to pay.” “That is not a good enough cause to break a contract,”

On Thursday, Union Carbide chose not to respond to the allegations made by Camden County. According to spokeswoman Tomm Sprick, a copy of the lawsuit had not yet been served to the company.

In 2015, the county government and the business entered into an option agreement for the county to purchase the land after it had been granted a Federal Aviation Administration spaceport operator license.

The license was granted by the FAA in December. However, opponents of the project amassed more than 3,500 petition signatures, forcing a referendum on the initiative before county commissioners could close on the site. When the idea was put to a vote in March, 72% of voters chose to reject the agreement.

According to commissioners, the spaceport proposal would boost the local economy not just through rocket launches but also by luring related businesses and tourists to the 55,000-person municipality near the Georgia-Florida border.

On an industrial site that was historically used to produce pesticides and weapons, opponents claim, establishing the spaceport would present risks.

Rockets that explode shortly after launch, according to critics including the National Park Service, could rain down fiery debris onto Little Cumberland Island, which has about 40 private homes, and Cumberland Island, which is nearby and is a federally protected wilderness visited by about 60,000 tourists annually.

To investigate potential hazards to the island, the county commissioners recruited consultants. After normal operational risk mitigations are implemented, their analysis found that “the total risk for fire to the probability of a failed rocket launch hitting Cumberland Island was discovered to be so minimal as to be untrue.

County officials are currently attempting to have the Georgia Supreme Court invalidate the referendum. They contend in their legal appeal that Georgia’s constitution forbids citizens from objecting to government initiatives like the spaceport. The case will be heard by the court on August 23.

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