Two pro-airport candidates, Larry Lelah and Deb Lyons, are challenging newcomers Liz Duffy and Ben Smith for two seats on the Readington Township Committee. If Lelah or Lyons wins, pro-Solberg forces will take over the majority of the Township Committee since Solberg supporters won 2 of the 5 seats last Fall.
The Lelah/ Lyons nomination petition was signed by dozens of fervent airport supporters, including Don Baldwin (member of the Board of Directors of the NJ Aviation Association, which is lobbying for Solberg expansion), individuals who sat with the Solbergs and their attorneys during the trial, and many who have spoken out in favor of the airport at township meetings or in letters to the editor. The candidates' fundraiser is being hosted by residents who are strongly pro-Solberg. These backers would not support any candidate who was not solidly on the side of airport interests.
The fate of Readington will hang on the results of the primary election on June 2 because the winners of the primary often run unopposed in the Fall. A win by Duffy and Smith maintains a pro-Readington majority on the Committee. A win by Lelah or Lyons means airport expansion.
Why does this matter so much?
Judge Armstrong is expected to issue his decision in the Readington v. Solberg trial sometime in the next month or so. No matter what the ruling, both sides have the right to appeal. There are two scenarios:
1) If the judge rules in favor of Readington, the Solbergs are sure to appeal. If Readington then fails to respond to the Solberg's appeal, the Solbergs will essentially win the appeal by default and will be free to pursue expansion.
2) If the judge rules in favor of the Solbergs, they will be free to pursue expansion unless Readington appeals the judge's decision.
In either case, to protect the town the Township Committee must stand strong in defense of the township, continuing with an appeal if necessary, but work hard to reach a negotiated settlement with the Solbergs.
If the Solbergs pursue expansion, the Township will have NO ability to regulate noise, jets, hours of operation, or the ultimate size of the airport. NJDOT and the FAA have jurisdiction, and the history of airports elsewhere shows that residents’ complaints will fall on deaf ears.
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April 14, 2015