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.

Pima County Votes to Appeal World View Court Ruling

The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to appeal a court ruling that its build/lease deal with high-altitude balloon company World View violated state law.

County officials called the lawsuit “job killing” and noted that the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute “ignored” similar economic development deals in Maricopa County.

A judge ruled last Thursday that Pima County violated state laws in not having its lease with the company appraised before signing an agreement to construct a facility. Judge Catherine Woods ruled in favor of a lawsuit by the right-wing Goldwater Institute to block the lease. The building was completed at the end of December.

The supervisors voted after conferring with lawyers in a closed-door session during a meeting Tuesday. During a public comment period, a parade of local business leaders encouraged the supervisors to pursue the appeal.

Against the appeal were Republicans Ally Miller, who also voted against approving the initial economic development deal last year, and Steve Christy, a newcomer to the Board who said he’d rather the county attempt to work out a deal with the plaintiffs before appealing.

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Judge Voids World View Contract With Pima County

World View headquarters in Pima County. (Credit: World View Enterprises)

Some bad news for World View Enterprises: a judge has voided a contract between the high-altitude balloon company and Pima County in Arizona.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Catherine Woods said Pima County was obligated to appraise the land and hold a public auction before agreeing to a $15 million incentives package for World View Enterprise last year.

Woods wrote the Legislature “intended to protect public resources from being used wastefully, or with fraud or favoritism.”

Goldwater Institute filed the lawsuit in April, months after the Pima County Board of Supervisors approved an incentives package for World View Enterprise that included building a 120,000-aquare-foot headquarters facility, 15,000-square-foot mezzanine and a launch pad.

World View would pay to lease the building and own it after 20 years of payments. The space exploration company develops high-altitude balloons for commercial, government and research purposes.

World View recently sent out press invitations for a grand opening on Feb. 28.


World View Headquarters Completed in Tucson

Crewed high altitude capsule. (Credit: World View)
Crewed high altitude capsule. (Credit: World View)

An update on near-space balloon company World View Enterprises from the Arizona Daily Star:

Pima County and World View Enterprises on Thursday marked the completion of Spaceport Tucson and the headquarters and manufacturing plant the company will lease from the county.

The county entered into an economic development agreement with World View in January to keep the company in Tucson.

World View plans to use its space to manufacture its new, high-altitude balloon flight vehicles, known as Stratollites, and offer unmanned flights to the stratosphere for commercial and research purposes.

The balloon vehicles can loiter over an area as a low-cost alternative to geostationary satellites for applications including communications, remote sensing, weather, and research.

Eventually, the company hopes to offer people the chance to ride to the edge of space for a fee.


Judge Allows World View Lawsuit to Continue

World View headquarters in Pima County. (Credit: World View Enterprises)
World View headquarters in Pima County. (Credit: World View Enterprises)

A judge is allowing a lawsuit challenging the $15 million deal between World View Enterprises and Pima County, Arizona to continue.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Catherine Woods denied the county’s attempt to have three of four counts in a suit brought by the conservative Goldwater Institute dismissed. Woods said she would rule on the remaining count, which alleges that the county violated the Arizona constitution’s gift clause, later.

That clause bars state government entities from giving their “credit in the aid of … any company or corporation,” among other prohibitions.

Pima County has agreed to build a headquarters and manufacturing facility for World View near the Tuscon airport. The company, which will continue high-altitude balloon flights, would pay back the amount via a 20-year lease.

Group Sues to Stop World View Deal With Pima County

World View headquarters in Pima County. (Credit: World View Enterprises)
World View headquarters in Pima County. (Credit: World View Enterprises)

The deal between near-space company World View and Pima County has sparked legal action.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators have learned htat Pima County’s loan of $15 million to World View Enterprises, a space tourism company, has sparked a lawsuit.

The defendants: Pima County, its entire Board of Supervisors, and County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.

Jim Manley, Senior Attorney with the conservative think-tank Goldwater Institute in Phoenix, told us he’s filing the suit tomorrow on behalf of three Pima County residents. “We’re asking the court to put a stop to the World View deal and all of the deals that come out of it.”

Manley calls the World View deal “illegal” for, among other things, violating Arizona’s Gift Clause. He says, “What the Gift Clause requires is that money be spent for a public purpose, and that the government receive fair compensation in return.” The lawsuit will also state the deal violates competitive bidding laws, because, Manley says, it was negotiated in secret, with no public bidding.

Construction on “Spaceport Tucson” is continuing on 30 acres near the airport, with completion targeted by November. The county says say having space tourism here will be a giant leap for the economy. Customers would travel 100,000 feet above earth in a high-tech balloon, at a cost per trip of $75,000. Manley says, “It’s not even as if the county is spending money on an amenity that the whole community can enjoy. This is a toy for the super-rich.”