Judge dismisses solar company lawsuit

Published 8:00 am Thursday, January 27, 2022

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A solar development company says a judge has halted an attempt to override the will of Charlotte County citizens by dismissing a lawsuit against them.

On Wednesday, Jan. 19, Judge Kimberly White dismissed a lawsuit brought against SolUnesco, a Reston, Virginia company looking to construct one of the nation’s most extensive solar facilities in the county at 800 megawatts.

On Sept. 28, John Janson, a South Hill attorney, filed the original lawsuit in Charlotte County Circuit Court on behalf of Faye Trent individually and as a fiduciary of Ruth A. Hansen Wilcox, after Trent said SolUnesco and company CEO Frances Hodsoll obtained a signed land lease option agreement dated Nov. 23, 2020, with Wilcox, who was incapable of making such decisions.

Hodsoll has maintained that the company has done nothing wrong.

On Oct. 20, Janson filed for an amended lawsuit naming the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors and planning commission as defendants.

“As we expected, Judge White found the lawsuit brought by Ms. Trent and her attorney, John Janson, to be completely baseless and dismissed all ten counts with prejudice,” said SolUnesco Communications Director Melody Gee.

Following the dismissal, Gee said the company was working on getting a final Order entered and will continue to advance the Randolph Solar project.

Problems arose for SolUnesco when Janson filed the 40-page lawsuit aimed to dissolve contractual agreements to build the 800-megawatt facility and recover monetary and punitive damages.

According to lawsuit documents, the defendants, individually and together, talked Wilcox, 83, who is known to have dementia, into granting an option to SolUnesco to lease her family farm for use in the Randolph Solar project.

The lease option agreement grants SolUnesco an irrevocable five-year option to lease Wilcox’s entire 96.76 acres for the Randolph Solar project.

The lawsuit claimed this was done after Hodsoll was told more than once by Trent that Wilcox was not interested in providing anyone with an option to lease any real property for use in the Randolph Solar Project.

Documents show that Hodsoll signed the lease agreement on behalf of his company. The suit notes that Wilcox was given a payment of $3,000.

The lawsuit also stated that William Berkley Devin, who owns a large portion of land included in the Randolph Solar project, needed SolUnesco to obtain Wilcox’s land in order for his land portions to be included.