KINGSLAND, Ga. – A judge in south Georgia has temporarily blocked backers of a proposed rocket launch site from purchasing any land until a court hearing scheduled for early next year.
The Federal Aviation Administration on Monday approved a launch site operator license for Spaceport Camden, though more permits will be needed before it can reach its goal of launching commercial rockets from coastal Georgia.
Opponents have gone to court to stop the project.
Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett Sr. on Tuesday issued a temporary restraining order barring the purchase of 4,000 acres of land for the site until a Jan. 5 court hearing.
The two Camden County residents who brought the case want the whole project to be halted until voters have a chance to weigh in on it. News4JAX reached out to those residents but has not received a reply.
County officials and proponents of the sale said these legal actions are just costing money and delaying the inevitable.
“Opponents of Spaceport Camden have spent years trying to delay or destroy this project. These delays have cost taxpayers many dollars in additional work related to incessant records requests, litigation, and significant missed opportunity. The current litigation is just more delay at the expense of wasted time, needless bad publicity, and its chilling effect on job creation and economic opportunity,” Camden County Commission Chairman Gary Bount said in a statement Wednesday.
But the restraining order doesn’t seem to worry developers of the spaceport who said it’s more of an administrative delay to work around the holidays.
“Camden County never intended to purchase the Spaceport Camden property before the holidays. The decision by Judge Scarlett moves this issue past the holiday season and we look forward to presenting our side to the court at that time,” Spaceport spokesperson John Simpson told News4JAX.
Camden County has spent nearly 10 years and $10 million on the Spaceport Camden project. It would be built on the outskirts of Woodbine on the same site that saw rocket testing for the Apollo missions in the 1960s.
About 3,800 people have signed a petition calling for a referendum that would let voters decide whether the county can buy the property. If the court rules that the petition has enough valid signatures, a special election would be held within 90 days to decide if the sale can happen.
The National Park Service and its parent agency, the U.S. Department of the Interior, also have expressed concerns.
In a July 22 letter to the FAA, the Interior Department said a chance of rockets exploding — with fiery debris raining down on wilderness land on Cumberland Island — creates an “unacceptable risk.” Cumberland Island, with its wild horses and nesting sea turtles, is a popular tourist area off the Georgia coast.