The Board of Supervisors unanimously gave the go-ahead Tuesday to begin lease negotiations with Vector Space Systems, which announced last week it will locate its headquarters and rocket manufacturing plant in Tucson.
A final deal, which will be for a 15- to 25-year market-rate ground lease for about 15 acres of county-owned land south of Tucson International Airport, will also need board approval.
County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry told the supervisors that the land, which was acquired by the county several years ago to provide a buffer for nearby Raytheon Missile Systems, will be appraised to determine the market rate.
The rockets Vector intends to build will send small satellites into space, work that will provide roughly 200 new jobs within three years of operations beginning in late 2017 or early 2018.
Huckelberry and company CEO Jim Cantrell have said the ground lease is all the company has asked for at this point. However, Huckelberry said the county will “explore” the possibility of a deal comparable to that offered to the space balloon company World View. In that deal, the county built facilities on behalf of the company, the costs of which are to be more than recouped over the course of a 20-year lease.
Though a critic of a number of county-led development efforts, including World View’s, Supervisor Ally Miller joined her colleagues in approving negotiations with Vector. After the meeting, she said that if the final deal is a market rate lease and in “full compliance with the state constitution,” she “could support that.”
Supervisor Sharon Bronson said the work of both World View and Vector bodes well for the county.
“We’re going to own the stratosphere,” she said.
Fee schedule set for Section 10 permits
The supervisors also unanimously approved a fee schedule Tuesday for developers hoping to take advantage of the county’s recently granted federal Section 10 permit. To participate, some developers will have to pay a $720 application fee and a $2,450 compliance monitoring fee.
The permit allows the county, and certain developers who choose to participate, the right to harass, harm or kill 44 vulnerable species during otherwise permitted development on about 36,000 acres in unincorporated Pima County. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted the permit in exchange for commitments to preserve and monitor roughly 116,000 acres of habitat elsewhere in the county.
Only subdivisions and commercial and industrial developments that require a site construction permit from the county’s Development Services will have to pay. Single, private lot developers issued permits to grade 14,000 or more square feet do not have to pay the fee.
David Godlewski, president of the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association, said the county did a “good job with getting fees that are going to be reasonable and feasible for the development community.”