LIVERMORE — Lease negotiations between landowners and a green energy development company have soured, raising questions over the fate of the Aramis solar farm slated for hundreds of acres of farmland in North Livermore.
In letters obtained by The Independent through a public records request with Alameda County, Jacqueline Phillips, a lawyer for the owners of Stanley Ranch, claims the Aramis developer Intersect Power included in its project application private land it did not own or control without the permission of the landowners.
“There is not, and there never has been, any lease or other agreement of any kind” between Leland Richard Stanley and Mary Stanley, the owners of the 108-acre property at 4400 N. Livermore Avenue, and the Intersect developer or any of its affiliates, Phillips wrote in a Jan. 7 letter to Intersect Power’s general counsel. The letter was forwarded to the county.
The letter goes on to terminate negotiations, noting the decision is final. It further instructs the Aramis developer and its agents not to trespass on the Stanley property or to contact any of the Stanleys directly.
In addition, the letter warns the developer and its agents not to violate a section of the California Penal Code on the crime of elder abuse, as well as a California Rule of Professional Responsibility, prohibiting attorneys from communicating about the subject of representation with a party known to be represented by another lawyer.
Intersect Power contends inclusion of the Stanley Ranch property in its application with the county was submitted with the owners’ permission.
The company plans to proceed with its modified development plans for the 100 megawatt solar power plant and battery storage facility despite the loss of the 38-acres within the Stanley Ranch.
"While we were disappointed, we respect the Stanley family's decision to withdraw this property from the project. Intersect Power has never represented that it has a lease agreement in place for the Stanley property,” said Marisa Mitchell, a principal with Intersect Power. “We do not anticipate this removal will impact our application to construct the Aramis Renewable Energy Project or jeopardize it in any way.”
Mitchell said the parties contemplated the exclusion of the Stanley Ranch parcel, and its inclusion offered the opportunity for the county to assess the largest possible project under the state’s environmental laws. Removing it will decrease its overall impact, she concluded.
The statements appear to contradict numerous prior assertions by Mitchell and other representatives with Intersect, regarding their concern that any lost acreage could jeopardize the project’s financial feasibility.
“If anything Intersect Power says can be taken seriously, the loss of the Stanley property also means the Aramis project is no longer economically viable,” said Robert Selna, legal counsel for Save North Livermore Valley.
The controversial utility-scale solar photovoltaic power plant proposal planned for open fields near North Livermore Avenue and Manning Road in the unincorporated Livermore won approval from an Alameda County zoning board in November.
The board’s approval, which would allow a solar facility to operate there for the next 50 years, was conditioned on the developer making modifications. Those modifications included increased setbacks around the project, as well as a slightly reduced footprint from the originally proposed 410 acres.
Four separate appeals on that decision, including one from the developer itself, are expected to go before the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in February.
Save North Livermore Valley is one of the groups appealing approval of the Aramis project.
“Given how much the project has changed, if Intersect Power still wants to move forward, it will have to submit an amended permit application and undergo a revised environmental study,” Chris O’Brien, a Save North Livermore Valley member said. “This simply is no longer the same project that hundreds of concerned citizens — and the East County Board of Zoning Adjustments — reviewed. And it cannot go to the Board of Supervisors as is.”
Albert Lopez, the county’s planning director, stated that the county has not had a chance yet to analyze or respond to issues raised by the changing circumstances.
The Jan. 7 letter prompted the county counsel’s office to ask if the letter was intended to serve as the Stanley family’s withdrawal of their conditional use permit.
“The short answer would be ‘yes,’ subject to the qualification that, as explained in greater detail below, our view is that our clients neither made a Conditional Use Permit application nor provided valid consent to the application,” Phillips further wrote in a Jan. 11 reply to County Counsel Donna R. Ziegler and Deputy County Counsel Heather M. Littlejohn.
Before Stanleys had legal representation, the project developer made material misrepresentations to induce one of them to sign a county permit application, the second letter alleges.
After the Stanleys hired Phillips to help with lease negotiations, the attorney made extensive, detailed comments on the developer’s proposed lease agreement.
Without contacting Phillips, the Aramis developer’s agents met with the elderly clients at their home for about five hours, going over the 40-page lease option agreement, Phillips detailed in the letter.
“Perhaps most horrifying, on or about Dec. 16, 2020, Aramis/Intersect sent our clients, directly, without advising us, an execution-ready set of documents to sign,” the letter said. “This document rejected virtually all of the comments that we as counsel for the Stanleys had provided in July 2020, and set forth a cash bonus for the Stanleys on a reverse sliding scale-$75,000 if the Stanleys signed by Dec. 25; $25,000 if the Stanleys signed between Dec. 26 and Jan. 4; and $5,000 if the Stanleys signed between Jan. 5 and Jan. 12.”
After consulting with Phillips about the proposed Christmas bonus, the Stanley family elected to terminate all negotiations, the letter said.