October 21, 2015
The expansion of Solberg Airport has been the number one issue in Readington politics for decades. Solberg Airport is centrally located in Readington Township, and the intensity of operations at the airport affects all residents. The 726 acres of the airport and its associated properties comprise a larger land mass than La Guardia Airport and sits on the edge of the nation’s busiest airspace, which makes it a desirable location for increased air traffic.
Solberg Aviation’s long stated goal is to create a facility suitable for mid-sized corporate jets similar to Morristown Airport. In 1999, the FAA and the State DOT gave conditional approval to an airport expansion plan that would ultimately result in a paved runway length of over a mile long.
Readington has been using the legal means afforded to municipalities to resist Solberg Aviation’s expansion proposal for more than 15 years. Readington’s zoning, which is being challenged in court by Solberg Aviation, allows airport development on 101 acres of the property, and limits the remaining 625 acres to Agricultural Residential zoning. This past May of 2015, Somerville Superior Court Judge Armstrong rendered a judgement that gave Solberg Aviation the right to “improve, modernize, and expand the property for airport and aviation enterprise purposes…” despite Readington’s existing zoning and efforts to preserve the airport in its existing configuration. Legal experts tell us that Armstrong showed a clear bias toward aviation, a lack of knowledge of land use law (Armstrong is a criminal judge with no prior land use experience), and that Armstrong’s decision went far beyond the issues before him. For these reasons, his decision could be overturned on appeal.
An appeal to the May court decision is critical for preventing airport expansion in Readington, because allowing Judge Armstrong’s decision to stand will guarantee Solberg Aviation the right to expand.
The election on November 3rd will decide the political will of Readington Township to appeal this flawed decision. Scott Scammell, an aviator with strong ties to the Solberg family and who sells aviation insurance for a living, is running in accordance with the Solberg’s interests. Liz Duffy and Ben Smith have demonstrated that they are well qualified and are genuinely motivated to represent the interests of Readington Township citizens and homeowners.
An airport expansion would immediately and seriously impact our property values and our enviable quality of life. Jet aircraft, which would be permissible at Solberg Aviation after runway expansion, take off at an angle lower to the ground and will subject residents to air pollution and unnerving noise pollution. Other impacts will include increased traffic and infrastructure costs for all Readington residents.
It is again up to Readington voters, on November 3rd, to maintain a majority Township Committee that will resist expansion. The Readington Township Committee is a 5 man governing body, and Solberg Aviation captured 2 seats in 2014. If Scammell is elected, he will form the three person majority that Solberg Aviation needs to bring litigation to an end and to take advantage of Judge Armstrong’s favorable decision that guarantees Solberg Aviation’s intent to expand.
For more information about litigation details relevant to the development potential of Solberg Aviation, see our article about post-trial motions, which also includes a link to the May 2015 court decision.
To understand the implications of an appeal to the May 2015 court decision, see our summary in favor of appealing.
To learn more about the governing bodies responsible for important decisions in Readington Township, see our overview of Township Boards, Committees and Commissions.