Rivian opponents withdraw lawsuit after failing to stop grading work

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Attorney for opposition group hints at future legal action on similar grounds

A group of residents near the future $5 billion Rivian electric vehicle plant ended their lawsuit against state and local officials this week after a judge allowed excavation work to continue on the site.

Five plaintiffs, who all either live or own property in Morgan County, filed a voluntary dismissal without prejudice motion Wednesday to withdraw the lawsuit. The original complaint was filed Oct. 21 and attempted to derail the Rivian project by arguing the 2,000-acre factory site had not been rezoned and that local officials had not obtained proper county land disturbance permits to begin excavation.

John Christy, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the withdrawal isn’t an admission of defeat, adding that further legal action is likely.

“We’re not abandoning the claims that we have. The dismissal does not bar those claims,” he said.

The dismissal motion comes nearly two weeks after Ocmulgee Superior Courts Judge Stephen Bradley denied a stop-work motion. His ruling also cast doubts as to whether the plaintiffs would be able to find a legal avenue to stop the factory.

ExploreJudge allows grading work to continue on Rivian site amid lawsuit

The lawsuit’s defendants included several Morgan County officials, the Joint Development Authority (JDA) of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton Counties and the company it hired to begin grading work. The Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) also intervened in the case, arguing the excavation work was legal.

The JDA and GDEcD released a joint statement after Wednesday’s dismissal, saying the judge’s stop-work denial “made it clear that Plaintiff’s likelihood of success on any upcoming trial on zoning was not likely to succeed...”

Though grading work has been ongoing for months, a ceremonial groundbreaking has not been announced for the California-based startup’s factory. The EV plant is expected to create 7,500 jobs.

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A note of disclosure

Cox Enterprises, owner of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, also owns about a 4% stake in Rivian and supplies services to the company. Sandy Schwartz, a Cox executive who oversees the AJC, is on Rivian’s board of directors and holds stock personally. He does not take part in the AJC’s coverage of Rivian.