State officials in Virginia are suing the developer of a luxury golf resort over what they call "significant and repeated environmental violations" in an area known as a major gathering place for bald eagles from up and down the East Coast.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday against Virginia True Corp. alleges that the developers cleared land without getting a permit, failed to develop a stormwater management plan and failed to install measures to prevent sediment runoff. David Paylor, director of the Department of Environmental Quality, and the State Water Control Board are the named plaintiffs in the suit.
The developers have proposed a 1,000-acre golf resort and housing development near Fones Cliffs, four miles of white bluffs that rise above the Rappahannock River in Richmond County.
Conservation and environmental groups have fought the project since it was first proposed in 2015, saying it could disturb the thousands of eagles from Canada all the way down to Florida that flock to the area to enjoy the river's catfish, shad and other fish.
The lawsuit says the state Department of Environmental Quality notified Virginia True of violations in February, April and August, but the problems continued. The lawsuit alleges 17 illegal actions by the developer, including: failing to obtain an approved erosion and sediment control plan before land disturbance; failure to perform self-inspections; and failure to apply permanent or temporary soil stabilization.
"This lawsuit includes some very serious allegations that Virginia True repeatedly disregarded its responsibilities to protect the land and waterways around its project, failed to seek and obtain the permits it knew it needed, and continued to cut corners and ignore its responsibilities even after receiving multiple notices of violation," Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement.
Edward Mullen, an attorney for Virginia True, said the developer has taken the issues raised by the department seriously and will review the lawsuit in a similar manner.
"Virginia True has been engaged with the Department and has worked actively to address issues raised by it," Mullen said in a statement. "It remains firm in its commitment to resolve them."
The lawsuit asks the court to issue an injunction to force Virginia True to comply with environmental laws and to assess the maximum allowable civil penalty against the company.