BROWNSVILLE, Texas – You may have never heard of the small beach community of Boca Chica Village. It’s a short walk to the beautiful, sun-drenched Gulf Coast shoreline – the rustic beach is alluring to people avoiding the posh and popular South Padre Island. The handful of the mostly Midwesterners who call Boca Chica home avoid harsh winters up north, but they’re also keeping the “Come and Take It” Texas spirit alive with their own fight against a larger foe.
What You Need To Know
- Space X is testing rockets near the Gulf of Mexico in Texas
- Homeowners have been receving letters asking them to sell
- While some have sold, others say they will keep refusing the offers
“You don’t see a sign that says ‘for sale’ – nowhere,” said Boca Chica seasonal resident James Workman.
The small unincorporated neighborhood is 20 miles east of Brownsville at the tail end of Texas State Highway 4. Curious visitors looking for the neighborhood nestled in the quasi-remote part of the state will find an abandoned fuel tank painted black to lead them in. In hand-painted, white letters, passersby will read the name of the community followed by “Welcomes You,” in cursive handwriting.
Workman and his wife Rosemarie are Minnesota natives. Two decades ago they bought their small ranch-style home in this most eastern part of Cameron County. The Workmans say life was peaceful, pleasant and perfect for 20 years.
“Just take a look at all this,” Rosemarie Workman said with a smile on her face as she stares past her neighborhood in the direction of South Padre.
Peaceful – until the new neighbor with deep pockets and an appetite for space travel arrived.
Space X needed a location to build, test, and launch rockets – they found it in Boca Chica almost a decade ago. Before construction crews broke ground near the Workmans’ home, Space X began snatching up private properties and properties and land sold through Cameron County auctions.
Then, about six years ago, SpaceX started turning dirt and pouring concrete to set up its South Texas launch and testing site, effectively beginning the next era in rocket engineering and space exploration. That’s when real estate brokers began sending unsolicited letters and emails to Boca Chica homeowners, including the Workmans, requesting to buy their homes.
In October, Space X announced its 100th successful launch carrying payloads into orbit. The private venture operation launches primarily from Cape Canaveral, Florida. On November 15, Space X carried the first international crew of four on a private American commercial space carrier.
Pointing to the back of her backyard, Rosemarie Workman said, “This all used to be vacant back here. Now there’s buildings, noise and spotlights going on all night long. They work 24 hours a day.”
She says she was insulted at what she saw as a lowball offer from a well-financed private venture owned by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.
“Fity-one-thousand-nine-hundred dollars? My home is not worth that kind of money – this is my home. I don’t want somebody to tell me it’s worth $51, 900 when I’m on the coastline,” she said while waving paper copies of appraisals financed by Space X, “when I watch the ships come up the channel, when I have wildlife all around me.”
The Workmans say other neighbors felt pressured and took Space X’s money.
“This house is directly across the street. I knew the people who lived here. They felt so intimated that they sold,” said Rosemarie Workman.
Regardless of the proximity, constant noise, and frequent road closures for Space X rocket tests, the Workmans say they’re digging in their heels and are here to stay.
With a smirk and clear frustration of the situation his new neighbors created, James Workman said Space X can keep their appraisals.
“You’re telling me it’s $50,000 here? Go away," he said.
Headquartered in California, Space X did not return Spectrum News 1 requests for a comment on this story.