Elon Musk’s plant to create a resort at his space company's launch cite has been thrown into question after several residents of a small village in Texas have refused to sell their homes, Business Insider reported. According to the news website, negotiations between SpaceX and residents of the town of Boca Chica have reached a stalemate and the company may now "pursue alternative approaches". The standoff between SpaceX and residents has been ongoing for over a year.
"Сommercial Version of Cape Canaveral"
Musk chose Boca Chica, Texas, as a candidate for SpaceX’s first space port in 2011. Alongside hosting the Starship launching site, the entrepreneur wanted to build a resort for the company’s employees and guests, and the company had received a green light from the Federal Aviation Administration. At the time, Musk was enthusiastic.
"We're talking about something that's really the big leagues here. This would be kind of a commercial version of Cape Canaveral. It'd be an historical first in the world. It would be of very great significance, both to the local economy as well as to the world."
The only thing that separated Musk from realizing the SpaceX spaceport dream were the residents of Boca Chica, or rather the close proximity of their houses to the launch site. Should a space launch go wrong and their homes become damaged and the owners injured or worse, SpaceX would be liable and could potentially pay hefty fines.
"I think the actual danger to Boca Chica Village is low, but it's not tiny. So therefore we want super-tiny risk. So probably, over time, it'd be better to buy out the villagers”, Musk said in 2019.
And so the battle began.
SpaceX attempted to buy the entire town in 2019. The company tried to persuade residents to move, offering them sums that were three times over what their property was worth (the value of homes was determined by estate agents hired by SpaceX). Though many residents claimed that they were being low-balled by SpaceX, over half accepted the offer.
Allegations of Lies and Comparisons to Apartheid
A year on, 10 residents of Boca Chica still do not want to sell their homes. Some residents, who spoke with the Daily Mail last July, claimed that the company has tried to bully them out of their homes. They said that David Finlay, SpaceX’s senior director of finance, repeatedly visited them, pressuring them to sell their property. Residents have also accused Musk of lying to them about the dangers of rocket launches, saying the entrepreneur wants to build homes for SpaceX employees. The Daily Claim said the allegations were true, citing photographs of construction activity.
One resident went so far as to compare the company’s strategy with South Africa's now-defunct practice of apartheid.
"Elon Musk was born and raised in South Africa and that's where they had apartheid. That's where they had the rich white folks use the minorities to make the money and he's never changed his thinking. He's here simply for the money", said Celia Johnson, 76, who has lived in Boca Chica since 1992.
According to Business Insider, SpaceX last week made its "best and final offer". However, some residents spoke with the news website and revealed that SpaceX's "best" offer was almost identical, if not worse, to the one the company made previously.
Some residents said their decision to stay should not be misinterpreted by SpaceX as a negotiating tactic aimed to get more money. They simply like their houses.
"I kind of think he [Musk] thinks money can buy everything, and we should be glad we're getting the three times, and we should just go. But, no, money can't buy everything. So here we are", said Mary Bloomer.
According to Business Insider, SpaceX's sale offer reportedly expired last Friday.