Supreme Court Refuses Readington’s Request To Certify Lower Court Decision

By not acting on Readington Township’s request to certify the decision of the appellate court, the State Supreme Court lets stand the ruling that will likely send the dispute to trial for resolution.

Hunterdon County Democrat article LINK

State Supreme Court refuses to hear Readington Twp.’s appeal in Solberg Airport condemnation battle
By Curtis Leeds / Hunterdon County Democrat

READINGTON TWP. — The state Supreme Court has refused to hear the township’s appeal of its case seeking to condemn the land surrounding Solberg Airport and acquire the development rights to the airport itself. That means, at least for now, that last year’s opinion from the state Appellate Division stands.

In the appellate ruling, a three-judge panel found that the contested 726 acres should not be treated equally. The land consists of seven lots divided into four tracts, and the court found that while the township has the right to zone and acquire the land surrounding the airport, authority over the airport and the safety zone around it rests with the state, which has “ultimate authority over aeronautical issues.”

The appellate opinion, which said that the township’s decision to condemn the airport’s development rights appeared to be “tainted by the township’s desire to control airport operations,” questioned what the condemnation would accomplish but found it “not improper” even if the motives “might be suspect.”

The opinion said some aspects of the case, such as exactly how much land the township can acquire through the condemnation, should be “determined after a full hearing.”

Resident Bill Lewis, a long-time critic of the condemnation, said his message to township officials is, “You lost. You were wrong. So cut it out” and end the appeals.

But Mayor Gerard Shamey said it’s not that simple. “No one has won or lost yet,” he said. “We’re still entitled to our day in court, with the Appellate Division opinion as our guide.” He said Township Committee will discuss Tuesday’s court opinion with its attorney and learn what it will mean to the township’s case.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” Shamey said. He added that he thinks it’s been “lost in the sauce” that the township’s objectives “were always consistent with preserving open space and preserving the airport… we’re the only one that’s done something to preserve the airport.”

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