Judge dismisses lawsuit against Randolph Solar Project

Published 12:06 am Friday, June 23, 2023

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For the third straight time, an attempt to stop the Randolph Solar Project went before a judge. And for the third time, it was dismissed.

After nearly a year since it was filed, the lawsuit to halt the construction of the project, one of the nation’s largest solar facilities, has finally come to an end.

Last year, Charlotte County citizens George Toombs, Donna Toombs, Steve Lenhart, Marian Lenhart, David Cogar, Heather Cogar, Levi Toombs, Kevin Newcomb, and Stuart Topp filed a case following the approval of the Randolph Solar Project.

This was Toombs’ third attempt to stop the Randolph Solar Project. Two earlier cases in which Toombs served as a plaintiff were previously dismissed by the court.

Retired circuit court Judge Thomas Padrick, visiting from Virginia’s Second Judicial District in the Virginia Beach area, dismissed the case and prohibited Toombs’ South Hill attorney, John Janson, from filing any future actions against solar developer SolUnesco or against members of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors without first having the complaint reviewed for legal sufficiency by a sitting judge.

Padrick also denied a request by defense counsel to have their attorney fees paid by the losing side. He also denied the defense’s request to get Janson reprimanded by the Virginia Bar Association as a vexatious litigant.

More about the Randolph Solar Project case

According to court documents provided by the county, the plaintiffs did not have standing as complainants as they must own and occupy property near the solar project site.

Second, the complainant must allege facts demonstrating particularized harm to some personal or property right, equitable, or imposition of a burden to the plaintiffs different from that suffered by the public generally.

“Plaintiffs bombard the Court with 28 distinct arguments for their position that the Board acted arbitrarily and capriciously in approving the Conditional Use Permit for Randolph Virginia.” court documents stated. “ This “kitchen sink” approach merely highlights, however, that the Plaintiffs’ true goal is not to litigate specific issues but rather to convince the Court to substitute Plaintiffs’ wishes for the judgment of the Board of Supervisors in carrying out the best interests of the County. As is plain from the lengthy legislative record of the approval process in this case, reasonable minds could and did differ about the advisability of approving the Conditional Use Permit. Many citizens were in favor of the project. Others were opposed.”

The project, set to be one of the largest solar facilities in the nation was, in a 4-to-2 vote, approved by the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors.

Supervisors approved both a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) and Sitting agreement for the 800-megawatt facility proposed by Reston, Virginia-based SolUnesco. That decision came after more than two years of public hearings, lawsuits and negotiations.

Some more history

According to a court document on June 1, 2022, the BOS held a properly noticed special meeting to discuss the Randolph Solar Project. During that meeting, the Board heard a presentation from SolUnesco and its partners.

It was during that meeting that SolUnesco’s representative focused on the potential economic benefits to the Charlotte County community of approving the CUP Application and the Siting Agreement for the Randolph Solar Project.

Among those benefits was an upfront payment of $20 million to the County, with additional anticipated revenues of $5 million per year, totaling $600 million over the fifty-year lifespan of the Project.

In addition, the Board heard a report from the Berkley Group, the third-party reviewer, and a significant number of comments from citizens.

According to county attorneys, the Board further considered the recommended conditions on approval of the Planning Commission.