After three hours of debate Thursday, the Volusia County Council gave its support to a proposed commercial spaceport at the north end of Kennedy Space Center and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Local 6 news partner Florida Today reports by a 6-1 vote, the council approved a resolution backing Space Florida's plan to develop a spaceport "in appropriate locations" after environmental surveys are performed "to ensure that the pristine environmental conditions of the area are duly preserved."
More than half of nearly 60 public speakers supported the complex known as Shiloh, where one or two pads could be built on 150 acres near the Brevard-Volusia county line.
Space Florida says the complex, operated independently from NASA and the Air Force, is needed to attract commercial launches by SpaceX and other companies that might otherwise move to states such as Texas or Georgia to establish standalone commerical launch bases.
Supporters argued the commercial spaceport would bring badly needed jobs in the wake of the shuttle program's retirement, benefit local students and affect a tiny fraction of the wildlife refuge.
Opponents said launches should use existing infrastructure instead of disturbing a pristine refuge and the eco-tourism business it attracts, and that it was premature for the council to take a position before environmental studies are done.
NASA has not yet agreed to give up land for the complex. The state plans to begin an environmental review soon in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration.
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