"The County believes that Union Carbide’s real reason 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 agreed to pay," the commissioners' statement said. “That is not a legitimate reason for repudiating a contract.”
Union Carbide declined to comment Thursday on the accusations by Camden County. The company had not yet been served with a copy of the lawsuit, said spokesman Tomm Sprick.
The county government in 2015 entered into an option agreement with the company to buy the land once the county obtained a spaceport operator license from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA awarded the license in December. But before county commissioners could close on the land, opponents forced a referendum on the project by gathering more than 3,500 petition signatures. The project was put to a vote in March, and 72% cast ballots to block the deal.
Commissioners have insisted the spaceport project would bring economic growth not just from rocket launches, but also by attracting related industries and tourists to the community of 55,000 people on the Georgia-Florida line.
Opponents say building the spaceport on an industrial plot formerly used to manufacture pesticides and munitions would pose potential hazards.
Critics, including the National Park Service, have said rockets exploding soon after launch could rain fiery debris onto 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.
County commissioners hired consultants to study potential threats to the island. Their report concluded that “after routine operational risk mitigations are applied the overall risk for fire to Cumberland Island from a failed rocket launch was found to be so low as to not be credible.”
Meanwhile, county officials are trying to have the referendum declared invalid by the Georgia Supreme Court. Their legal appeal argues that Georgia's constitution doesn’t allow voters to veto government projects such as the spaceport. The court is scheduled to hear the case Aug. 23.