Appeals Court Sides With Pima County in World View Case

Getting ready for launch. (Credit: World View)

Pima County, Arizona won a round in its fight over an incentives package it provided to near-space balloon company World View.

The state Court of Appeals on Thursday said competitive bidding laws do not apply when counties are trying to lure a specific company to the area.

In a unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel acknowledged the purpose of competitive bids is to ensure that the county — and, by extension, the taxpayers — gets the most money for the property. But Judge Peter Eckerstrom, writing for the court, said that does not apply when the real goal is not immediate income but longer-term economic development.

Thursday’s ruling drew criticism from the Goldwater Institute, which represented three taxpayers who challenged the lease between Pima County and World View for a launch pad from which it hopes to launch individuals to the edge of space in balloons. The $15 million deal includes not only the lease of a 12-acre county-owned site but also construction of a launch pad and headquarters for the company….

Thursday’s ruling, even if upheld by the Supreme Court, does not end the legal battle. Goldwater still has a separate claim against Pima County that the deal violates a provision of the Arizona Constitution that makes it illegal for governments to give or lend money to private enterprises.

The Goldwater Institute plans to appeal the appeals court ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court.