Engaging with the community is one of the highlights of solar development. In the counties that host solar projects, all residents benefit from tax revenue, increased business activity, and other fiscal benefits that the project brings, and developers are pleased to work with community members. Randolph Solar has enjoyed meeting with landowners and neighbors, hosting community meetings, and attending county meetings to answer questions, receive input, or listen to concerns.
While differing opinions are expected and welcome, last October Randolph Solar was surprised to find itself targeted by a lawsuit by Ms. Faye Trent, who sought to invalidate a landowner’s contract in the project.
In addition to suing SolUnesco, the lawsuit filed by Ms. Trent’s attorney, John Janson, named two private citizens and the county, and even went so far as to ask the judge to ban future solar development in the county for five years — effectively trying to dictate what other landowners could do with their property.
On February 4, 2022, Judge Kimberly White of Charlotte County signed her final order to dismiss all ten counts of the lawsuit with prejudice. The ruling was made on January 19, 2022.
Rejecting Mr. Janson’s claim that Ms. Trent has standing because “Faye and Ruth are life-long friends,” the court concluded that “neither friendship nor common interest makes standing. Standing is a legal concept. It doesn’t mean that you know what the person would want. It doesn’t mean that you’re friends.”
Mr. Janson additionally failed to recognize that, as an advisory body, the Charlotte County Planning Commission is not a legal entity and therefore can’t actually be sued.
Two counts were dismissed because their legal claims simply did not exist. In one, Mr. Janson tried to misapply a law governing goods onto real estate.
But it was in asking the court to invalidate Ms. Wilcox’s legal contract that broached dangerous ground for someone holding power of attorney for another individual, and who should be guarding and protecting that person above their own interests.
The court found that no person can extinguish a contract entered into by the individual they hold power of attorney for, which would amount to invalidating a person’s free will. Any such ruling would “wreak havoc on an individual’s use of power of attorney.”
As for seeking to ban future solar development, the court refused to prevent citizens from entering into contracts they have every right to enter into.
While we are dismayed by the frivolous waste of taxpayer dollars resulting from a baseless lawsuit, Randolph Solar will continue working to bring jobs, improved community services, clean energy, and many other fiscal benefits to Charlotte County.
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