WOODBINE — The public had an opportunity for a third time to express their opinions Tuesday about a proposal asking state legislators to approve the creation of a spaceport authority.
But little has changed since the first two meetings held last month.
A majority of people who spoke expressed their opposition to the creation of an authority Camden County officials want to oversee operations of a proposed spaceport.
David Kyler, director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, was among those who opposed the creation of the authority and spaceport itself, saying the arguments in support of the proposal don’t add up.
“If ever licensed by the Federal Aviation Authority, so-called Spaceport Camden would be the only such facility ever approved that features inhabited areas in the flight path hazard zones where dangerous debris from launches falls to the earth,” he said in an email after the meeting.
Kevin Lang, a lawyer and Little Cumberland Island resident, said county commissioners are intent to create a spaceport, even though it’s unlikely commercial rockets will ever be launched at the site.
In the three public hearings held to discuss the creation of an authority, Lang said 47 people spoke against the spaceport and the creation of an authority, and three spoke in favor of the proposal.
Lang was the first speaker at Tuesday’s meeting, and he said county commissioners at the meeting were not engaged with the audience.
“They weren’t even looking at the speakers most of the time,” he said. “I’m not sure the commissioners are listening to anyone.”
Lang said he remains convinced the FAA will never approve a license to launch from the site, but there is a concern the creation of an authority to oversee spaceport operations could cost county taxpayers more money than the millions already spent.
Despite the public opposition expressed at the meetings, Lang predicted the General Assembly will approve the local legislation to allow the county to establish the authority.
“They’re going to approve it,” he said. “If it wasn’t a local bill, I don’t think it could pass. There’s a lot of deference to local legislation.”
Lang said he doesn’t understand why county commissioners are so intent on creating a spaceport that he believes will never be allowed to launch rockets because of safety concerns.
“I believe strongly they know a launch is not possible,” he said. “A site license doesn’t give the ability to launch rockets.”
Steve Willis, president of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, agreed the risks to natural resources, residents and property owners is too great.
“Imagine red-hot rocket debris falling onto heavily vegetated Cumberland Island, especially after an extended period of dry weather,” Willis said. “Not only would there be serious risk of wildfire, but the proposal to launch rockets over an area dedicated to experiencing pristine nature is in flagrant conflict with the Congressionally declared purpose of Cumberland as a national seashore.”