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New Times / News

The following article was posted on April 18th, 2014, in the New Times - Volume 28, Issue 38 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 28, Issue 38

A solar company sues ... itself?

BY COLIN RIGLEY

On April 9, High Plains Ranch filed a lawsuit against High Plains Ranch.

Specifically, High Plains Ranch II filed a complaint with the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court against High Plains Ranch IV. The two LLCs are former subsidiaries of SunPower, one of a handful of companies associated with the California Valley Solar Ranch project in the Carrizo Plain National Monument. The complaint alleges High Plains Ranch II was unfairly billed for $287,014, of which $91,209 was due to the county in the form of property tax payments.

The dispute centers on 19 parcels and a solar facility ground lease from September 2011 as part of the construction of the California Valley Solar Ranch. The project, one of two major solar facilities in the area, went online in October 2013, but the complaint alleges that ongoing disagreements between High Plains Ranch IV (the lessor) and High Plains Ranch II (the lessee) date back to 2012.

There used to be as many as five LLCs under the High Plains Ranch moniker (I through V), but only II and IV are still active, according to the California Secretary of State. According to the lawsuit, SunPower was the original owner of both LLCs, but sold its membership in High Plains Ranch II to NRG Solar, and its membership in High Plains Ranch IV to an AT&T subsidiary.

High Plains Ranch II contends that High Plains Ranch IV insisted on a private appraisal of the land and had the appraiser assess the value as only agricultural and recreational while disregarding the potential as a massive solar facility.

“[High Plains Ranch IV] has taken the position with [High Plains Ranch II] that all increases in assessed value are due to [High Plains Ranch IV’s] construction of improvements on the Property,” the complaint reads.

High Plains Ranch II counters that it owes “at most” $5,064 in prior taxes. On April 4, High Plains Ranch IV issued a notice of default on its lease. But High Plains Ranch II argues that it didn’t receive proper notification about the default.

As of press time, the complaint had been filed with the court but not yet served. An attorney from the firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, which is representing High Plains Ranch II, said he couldn’t comment on the case directly. A representative for the California Valley Solar Ranch didn’t return a call for comment before press time.