November 6, 2013
By Elizabeth A Tennyson
After years of back and forth between city leaders and the owners of Solberg Airport in Readington, N.J., AOPA is saying “enough.” The association recently wrote to Readington Mayor Julia Allen asking her and other city leaders to stop looking for ways to close the privately owned, public-use airport and start working with its owners, the Solberg family.
“We are writing to express our strong opposition to ongoing efforts by the Township of Readington to strip ownership and development rights of the Solberg Airport from a family that has devoted over three generations to the safe operation of this important airport,” wrote Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports. “We find it quite troubling that, in the face of continued losses in the state judicial system, the Township would continue to waste scarce taxpayer dollars in pursuing this agenda.”
Since 2005, Readington Township leaders have used a variety of strategies to attempt to take control of the airport and surrounding property. In 2006, the township filed a condemnation suit against the property. That suit was dismissed in 2009 but was later reactivated. The latest legal maneuvering has the township seeking to amend its condemnation suit, which is set to go to trial in March 2014. In this request for an amendment, the township claims that it wants to acquire the airport property in order to preserve the airport. A previous attempt by the township to amend its complaint to acquire the land surrounding the airport through eminent domain was dismissed by the court in July.
Many view the township’s claim that it wants to preserve the airport with suspicion given the long history of attempts to close the field.
“It appears to us that each time the Township’s argument for proceeding is defeated, another ‘reason’ is pursued,” Dunn wrote on behalf of AOPA, adding that the township’s claim that it wants to prevent development by preserving the airport seems “disingenuous at best.”
He urged the township to immediately drop its legal actions and work with the Solberg family to ensure the continued operation of the airport and preserve its role in the local and national transportation system.
AOPA Senior Director of Communications Elizabeth Tennyson is an instrument-rated private pilot who first joined AOPA in 1998.
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