New Jersey eminent domain laws need to change, AOPA says

January 24, 2008

New Jersey eminent domain laws need to change, AOPA says

By AOPA ePublishing staff

A New Jersey superior court ruled on Jan. 16 that the township of Readington could complete its eminent domain proceedings against Solberg-Hunterdon Airport. This allows the township to appoint a three-member panel of disinterested parties to appraise the value of the property to be acquired. The ruling comes after 16 months of legal proceedings.

The township has argued that its intent is to preserve the airport by acquiring the development rights to the airport property itself, as well as taking ownership of 625 acres of open space surrounding the airport. Readington has already set aside more than $21 million dollars to fund the land acquisition. The township has stated its desire to have the airport remain in its current configuration rather than expand to handle corporate jet operations.

For the past two years, AOPA has been working with key state legislators in Trenton to change the eminent domain law. However, the legislature and state courts rarely interfere with local matters, deferring instead to locally elected officials.

“The Solberg Airport case very clearly demonstrates that we must have a change in law to provide greater protection for privately owned airports,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of regional affairs. “Even though many of the public-use airports in New Jersey are privately owned, they play a valuable role in our nation’s air transportation system and should have the same legislative protections as publicly owned airports.”

AOPA will continue to work for passage of a bill (Assembly Bill 1456), which includes these vital protections.