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Solar company faces lawsuit

SolUnesco, a Reston Virginia solar development company looking to construct one of the nation’s most extensive solar facilities in Charlotte County, is at the center of a lawsuit filed just weeks ago.

John Janson, a South Hill attorney, filed the lawsuit in Charlotte County Circuit Court on Sept. 28 on behalf of Faye Trent individually and as a fiduciary of Ruth A. Hansen Wilcox, after Trent said, SolUnesco and company CEO Frances Hodsoll obtained a signed land lease option agreement dated Nov. 23, 2020, with Wilcox who was incapable of making such decisions.

According to the 40-page document, the lawsuit aims to dissolve contractual agreements to build the 800-megawatt facility and recover monetary and punitive damages.

In addition to SolUnesco and Hodsoll, the suit names real estate broker Sandra Ann Towne and her company Properties of Virginia LLC and landowner William Berkley Devin as defendants.

According to lawsuit documents, the defendants, individually and together, talked Wilcox, 83, who is known to have dementia, into granting an option to SolUnesco to lease her family farm for use in the Randolph Solar project.

The lease option agreement grants SolUnesco an irrevocable five-year option to lease Wilcox’s entire 96.76 acres for the Randolph Solar project.

The lawsuit claims this was done after Towne and Hodsoll were told more than once by Trent that Wilcox was not interested in providing anyone with an option to lease any real property for use in the Randolph Solar Project.

Documents show that Hodsoll signed the lease agreement on behalf of his company. The suit notes that Wilcox was given a payment of $3,000.

The lawsuit also states that William Berkley Devin, who owns a large portion of land included in the Randolph Solar project, needed SolUnesco to obtain Wilcox’s land in order for his land portions to be included.

On a third occasion, Towne and Hodsoll approached Trent about the possibility of obtaining a lease and were told by Trent “there was no need for them to get out of their car, as she was fed up with them pressuring her elderly friend to enter the option for the benefit of Devin.” The lawsuit stated.

In a letter dated July 12, 2019, Paul Buckman, M.D Wilcox’s primary physician, wrote: “Based on her short-term memory impairment and poor safety awareness due to her dementia, it is my professional opinion that Ms. Wilcox is incapable of making informed decisions about her health and safety and these decisions should be made by her Power of Attorney based on her previously executed advanced directive.”

In the August Charlotte County Board of Supervisors meeting, Trent publicly spoke out against SolUnesco, alleging its wrongdoings.