Article from Hunterdon Democrat LINK
Solberg Airport issues should be sorted out at a trial, Superior Court rules
By Frank Mustac
A trial is needed to resolve the many issues between Readington Township and Solberg Airport. That’s the thrust of a 67-page ruling from the Superior Court Appellate Division.The ruling from the Superior Court Appellate Division has reversed the ruling of a trial judge over Readington Township’s condemnation of land surrounding Solberg Airport and development rights to the airport itself.
Bill McGrath, an attorney with Smith, Stratton in Princeton and a township resident not associated with the litigation, said the opinion has the effect of ordering a trial on “all the issues” in the dispute between the township and the Solberg family that owns the airport.
The decision is a mixed bag. While it affirms the right of the township to zone and acquire the land surrounding the airport, it also says that state law does not give the township authority to acquire the development rights to the airport itself, McGrath said. The opinion also states that the township’s actions are unlikely to “achieve the stated purposes” of preserving the airport, in part because “the fact that the facility will remain under the ownership of the Solbergs casts doubt on its post-condemnation survival… It appears that the decision to condemn development rights to the airport was tainted by the township’s desire to control airport operations.” It says “ultimate authority” over airport operations rests with the state, not the township.
The ruling also sides with the Solberg family over the township’s claim that they owe property taxes on the airport dating back to 2006.
“This means that the condemnation is not likely to be upheld on the airport itself, or land within the ’safety zone’” surrounding the airport, McGrath said. “The opinion sends a message to the trial judge.”