Oct 11, 2022 - News

Spaceport before the supreme court

State supreme court arguments in a courtroom

A lawyer for the county argues before the Georgia State Supreme Court in Augusta. Photo: Emma Hurt/Axios

Camden County leaders want to build a spaceport. Many Camden residents don't. And now the question rests with the Georgia state Supreme Court.

Driving the news: Lawyers for the citizen petitioners who led the campaign against the spaceport, and lawyers for the coastal county made their cases to the justices in Augusta last week.

Why it matters: A ruling in the county's favor could threaten the clause in the Georgia constitution that gives citizens the right to gather petition signatures and force a referendum on a local government's actions.

  • A ruling for the petitioners could spell the end of the spaceport as planned.

Catch up quick: After years of controversy amid environmental and economic concerns (which accelerated after plans to launch over Cumberland Island National Seashore became clear in 2015), the county secured a spaceport operator license in December from the Federal Aviation Administration. (Any actual rocket launch would require an additional license.)

  • The county has spent more than $10 million on the plan.

Flashback: After a successful petition campaign to trigger a referendum, 72% of county voters rejected its intention to purchase the property needed for the spaceport in March. The county has consistently challenged the validity of the referendum, which brought them to the state supreme court.

  • The Court of Appeals passed the case to the state Supreme Court, calling the county's request "an extraordinary remedy."

What they’re saying: After listening to the arguments, Megan Desrosiers, director of Georgia environmental group One Hundred Miles (which helped organized the referendum), told Axios that she has "confidence probably for the first time in this whole saga for the last eight years that finally there's an authority that is looking out for the best interests of the voters, of the people in Camden County."

  • Steve Howard, Camden County's administrator who's been the chief spokesman of the project, declined to comment to Axios following the proceedings in Augusta.

What we're watching: This is not the only lawsuit surrounding the spaceport. The county also sued Union Carbide after the company declared they would not sell the property to the county after all, because of the referendum vote.

  • A ruling from the state supreme court could take months.

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