Rivian has plans to open a second US factory in the very small, rural town of Rutledge, Georgia, which is about a half-hour south of Atlanta. While the factory may bring positive media attention, many jobs, and a boost to the area's economy, residents in Morgan County and nearby locations are pushing back.
This comes as no surprise since, despite the benefits of having a new factory open up in your town, there are many reasons local residents would be opposed. Not only has this been common over the years related to legacy automakers' gas-powered vehicle factories, but Tesla is also fighting similar battles as it works to open its factory near Berlin, Germany.
According to an article published by Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB), The Rivian Opposition group is on a mission to raise $250,000 to put together a legal team to go to bat against Rivian's factory plans.
The area around Rutledge is quiet, peaceful, and relatively unscathed. In fact, many people have moved to the area for those reasons. JoEllen Artz has lived there for about 20 years after moving away from bustling Atlanta. GPB says Artz loves the area's "well-preserved landscapes and historic architecture." Artz shared:
“I retired from Rich's, not Macy's, and my husband retired from Delta. We moved out here because of the environment. It's rural.”
“I'm not against electric vehicles. In fact, I haven't heard anybody on our Facebook page say that they're against electric vehicles.”
“It's a heavily retired population. There's less than 20,000 people in our county. If they hire 7,500 people, that will be like, every day, bringing in a third of our county population.”
Tonya Bechtler, another Morgan Country resident of some five years, agreed:
“I chose this area because it's clean. There's no litter. There's no water contamination. We don't have landfills. We don't have trash everywhere. For me, riding out here, it was just spectacular.”
Reportedly, the Morgan County Comprehensive Plan, which was drafted in 2017, assured residents that the area's future vision will include green space and rural living, with only gradual future development. That said, Rivian's plan to open a factory in the small town will completely turn the tables on that earlier outlook.
Rivian aims to start construction of its second US factory this summer 2022. If all goes as planned, the EV maker will develop some 2,200 acres over the next few years. However, while final approval is supposed to happen in less than a month, some local residents hope to slow the process down.
Moreover, some homeowners hope they can stop future construction entirely. They've even started a Facebook group named, “Our Communities Oppose Rivian Assembly Plant,” which already has over 2,000 members.
Worries from the opposition include increased traffic, litter, water contamination, and damage to local wetlands and historic markers. Overall, many residents believe the Rivian factory vision is completely inconsistent with the Morgan County Comprehensive Plan, primarily due to the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission's recent impact report.
The Rivian Opposition group had already raised some $125,000 by late January. It also hired a firm to represent it. The law firm is requesting rezoning delays to slow down the project. Morgan County commissioners have plans to host a zoning review on February 24, which should lead to a final vote by March 1.