Rivian public meetings start next week

December 16, 2021 Atlanta - Guests look at Rivian R1T electric truck during a press conference at Liberty Plaza across from the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Thursday, December 16, 2021. Electric vehicle maker Rivian on Thursday confirmed its plans to build a $5 billion assembly plant and battery factory in Georgia, which Gov. Brian Kemp called Òthe largest single economic development project ever in this stateÕs history.Ó (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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December 16, 2021 Atlanta - Guests look at Rivian R1T electric truck during a press conference at Liberty Plaza across from the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Thursday, December 16, 2021. Electric vehicle maker Rivian on Thursday confirmed its plans to build a $5 billion assembly plant and battery factory in Georgia, which Gov. Brian Kemp called Òthe largest single economic development project ever in this stateÕs history.Ó (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Site Design and Environmental Committee to hold first meeting Monday

State officials have scheduled the first public meetings concerning the planned $5 billion Rivian electric vehicle plant.

The state created four Rivian Planning Committees to solicit public input after it took over the project earlier this year in the face of a strong local backlash to the plant in a rural area off I-20 about an hour’s drive east of Atlanta. Construction is expected to start this year.

The Site Design and Environmental Committee, the first of the four panels to meet, will hold its initial forum Monday, April 18. The first meeting will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Athens Regional Technical College’s Monroe Campus at 212 Bryant Road. Three more meetings of this committee are scheduled to follow in May.

The community input and committee process established by the state is rare for major economic development projects in Georgia. But critics have slammed the state takeover and the four Rivian Planning Committees as little more than window dressing and not true public engagement.

Though many business and political leaders in Walton and Morgan counties, where the plant is planned, support Rivian, a vocal opposition has expressed concerns about traffic, environmental issues, loss of farmland and over-development.

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Location of Rivian's $5 billion electric vehicle factory east of Atlanta. The company’s site, about 2,000 acres along I-20 between the towns of Social Circle and Rutledge in southern Walton and Morgan counties, is about an hour’s drive from Atlanta and can pull from the metro area’s talent pool to fill its 7,500 planned jobs. Work on Rivian’s plant is slated to start this spring at a 2,000-acre site in Morgan and Walton counties.

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Location of Rivian's $5 billion electric vehicle factory east of Atlanta. The company’s site, about 2,000 acres along I-20 between the towns of Social Circle and Rutledge in southern Walton and Morgan counties, is about an hour’s drive from Atlanta and can pull from the metro area’s talent pool to fill its 7,500 planned jobs. Work on Rivian’s plant is slated to start this spring at a 2,000-acre site in Morgan and Walton counties.

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Combined ShapeCaption
Location of Rivian's $5 billion electric vehicle factory east of Atlanta. The company’s site, about 2,000 acres along I-20 between the towns of Social Circle and Rutledge in southern Walton and Morgan counties, is about an hour’s drive from Atlanta and can pull from the metro area’s talent pool to fill its 7,500 planned jobs. Work on Rivian’s plant is slated to start this spring at a 2,000-acre site in Morgan and Walton counties.

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Gov. Brian Kemp and Rivian announced in December plans to build the factory on a site between the downtowns of Social Circle and Rutledge. California-based Rivian has said it will create 7,500 jobs and build its flagship R1T truck and R1S SUV along with battery-powered electric delivery vans.

The Rivian plant has been widely hailed by environmental groups, and many state Republicans and Democrats. Kemp has called it the biggest economic development project in Georgia history.

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Rivian’s planned Georgia EV plant sparks local environmental scrutiny

Rivian’s planned Georgia EV plant sparks local environmental scrutiny

Combined ShapeCaption
Rivian’s planned Georgia EV plant sparks local environmental scrutiny

But opposition to the plant in the Social Circle and Rutledge communities threatened to derail rezoning of 2,000 rural acres for industrial use. That is when the state stepped in. Rezoning is no longer required under state control.

Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who is challenging Kemp in the Republican primary, has slammed the governor over the Rivian project and claimed that if elected he’d kill the project if it did not win local support.

Each of the four committees formed by the state include a dozen members of the public and private sectors who will make recommendations to state leaders and the company. And each group is assigned one of four topics: environmental concerns, quality of life, workforce development and local business participation.

A notice from the Georgia Department of Economic Development said the hearings are open to the public. But public comment for the upcoming Site Design and Environmental Committee hearings will be heard only during Monday’s hearing and the third meeting scheduled for May 18 and limited to 30 minutes each.

Felton Jenkins, who lives in Washington State but whose family for generations has owned land near the future plant, lamented the lack of local control.

“Is it really a committee where people are going to have input and it’ll make a difference about what they’re going to do, or is it a kind of showpiece and an exercise to make people feel good?” he said.

Marie Gordon, a state economic development spokeswoman, said the public will have numerous opportunities to address government officials and Rivian.

The committees are structured to accept public remarks in the first hearing, the second meetings are designed as working groups, before a third meeting where public comment again will be heard. The committees are expected to complete their work in their fourth meetings.

“In addition, all of these committees are comprised of local members from the community,” Gordon said in an email. “We expect that the committee members and the chairs will be receiving and seeking input from the public that will help inform their recommendations — they will not solely rely on input shared during the formal public comment periods.”

Public input also will be sought as the Rivian seeks various permits from state agencies.

Meeting dates for the three other Rivian committees will be announced later.

Cox Enterprises, owner of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, owns about a 4% stake in Rivian and supplies services to it. 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.


Rivian forums

What: Site Design and Environmental Committee

Meeting dates:

  • Monday, April 18 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Monday, May 2 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. (No public comment)
  • Wednesday, May 18 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, May 25 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. (No public comment)

Where: Athens Regional Technical College’s Monroe campus, 212 Bryant Road, Monroe, Ga.

More information: www.georgia.org/rivian