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JDA v. No 2 Rivian battle ongoing
Rivian site
The Rivian site is shown in this photo from February 2023. - photo by Special Photo

GEORGIA – The ongoing legal battle between the Joint Development Authority as well as the State of Georgia and members of the “No 2 Rivian” group is continuing through multiple courts across the state.

While the electric vehicle company plans to build its 16-million-square-foot, $5 billion facility on 1,800 acres in the Stanton Springs area, its opponents are not going down without a fight.

No 2 Rivian files appeal in Morgan County case 

On Jan. 30, the No 2 Rivian Group filed an appeal to reverse the decision from the Morgan County Superior Court that dismissed their zoning challenge.

This comes 28 days following the official Jan. 2 ruling which dismissed the lawsuit.

The lawsuit filed by the group of Morgan County landowners first went before Superior Court judge Stephen Bradley on Nov. 17. In the suit, the anti-Rivian group claimed that the construction efforts from Rivian are “continuing to cause disruptions to their land,” and that Rivian could not move forward in compliance with Morgan County zoning ordinances. 

Bradley dismissed the lawsuit, citing that state-owned property does not have to fall into local ordinances.

“While the Court may be sympathetic to local landowners adversely affected by the Rivian Project, it is compelled to follow existing law,” Bradley wrote in the official Jan. 2 ruling. “The General Assembly and the Supreme Court have clearly declared that this type of economic endeavor is valuable and, by not waiving sovereign immunity, outside of the reach of local land use regulations.

“Accordingly, because the Morgan County land use codes, ordinances or regulations cannot be enforced against the Rivian project property, the Plaintiff's amended and restated complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”

Following the appeal the JDA and the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) released a joint statement, condemning the continued court actions from No 2 Rivian.

“This is another frivolous lawsuit by the opposition that continues to waste taxpayer dollars. The Court has ruled on this matter,” per the released joint statement. “The Rivian project is underway and bringing thousands of jobs to Georgia. Every time the opposition takes Court action, they are diverting PILOT project dollars away from their community to pay legal expenses.”

Court of appeals overturns legal cost fees in Fulton County case

The No 2 Rivian group earned a small victory in the ongoing legal battle on Feb. 2.

A court of appeals issued an order reversing a trial court’s ruling that forced No 2 Rivian to cover legal fees in the amount of nearly $365,000.

Back in May, Fulton County Superior Court judge Thomas Cox Jr ordered that the six listed plaintiffs from the landowner group were ordered to pre-pay the large sum of money after the court found that the state would likely succeed in the case.

“Here, the trial court found that the State was likely to prevail, which is consistent with the statutory language and our case law,” per the Feb. 2 court of appeals ruling. 

However, the ruling stated that the trial court failed to consider all of the plaintiffs' claims in this case

“But the trial court focused only on the plaintiffs’ claims regarding zoning issues and failed to consider the merits voluntarily dismissed without prejudice and the trial court did not reach the merits,” read the ruling. “Specifically, the trial court did not address the plaintiffs’ claims that the Rivian Project failed to comply with building codes and environmental controls, such as Georgia’s Erosion and Sedimentation Act. Nor did the court consider whether the terms of the 2021 Intergovernmental Development Services Contract applied to the Rivian Project.”

With that the appeal court decided to vacate the trial court’s order.

“Accordingly, because the trial court’s order failed to address whether any of the plaintiffs’ other claims could have merit, and it appears from the record that at least one claim might, we must vacate the trial court’s order imposing the bond,” read the ruling.

The order will now go again before Cox at a later date, to determine if No 2 Rivian will be responsible for covering the state and JDA’s legal fees.

Following the ruling, another joint statement was released by the JDA and the GDEcD, affirming that the ruling continued to provide support in favor of the state.

“We’ve had multiple Courts rule in the state and JDA’s favor on this matter. Today’s ruling continues to provide additional support for the State and JDA’s position, and we have every expectation that we will continue to prevail,” read the statement.