Since 2006, Readington Township has been moving forward with efforts to purchase an interest in Solberg Airport. In a special referendum, the electorate had supported a proposal to purchase the development rights on the 100 acre Airport Facilities Area and to purchase the 625 acres of open space surrounding the airport. Sixty one percent of registered voters participated in the 2006 referendum and the measure passed with 56 percent of voters approving the $22 million purchase.
The township’s purpose has been to protect Readington’s existing community character by permanently preserving the largest tract of open space left in the township, as well as the preservation and control of the airport. Because negotiations quickly reached an impasse, the $22 million is being held in an interest-bearing escrow. A trial is scheduled for March 2014. The current cost of the litigation and interest on short term notes is costing the average homeowner approximately $100 per year.
The Township Committee is now attempting to reach out to township residents to get an idea what their present thoughts are on this issue, so that they can then reassess the township’s actions. This reassessment comes in light of comments made during the recent Nov. 6 public hearing. Many speakers called into question whether public support for the proposed acquisition continues to exist. A number of people noted the failure of negotiations with the Solbergs, the public dislike for eminent domain, and the cost of the proposed acquisition in light of the economy.
Everyone agrees that they like the airport just the way it is today. The problem is that without some action to preserve it, it is unlikely to remain as it is. A recent study commissioned by the FAA noted that the income generated from small airports is not sufficient to justify the huge capital investment in the land they occupy. This means that the open land and the small general aviation airport may succumb either to suburban sprawl as it advances across central New Jersey, or it may be transformed into a much larger airport. Either scenario would negatively impacting the township’s community character.
If you would like to give your views on the issue of Solberg Airport, contact me at www.readingtontwp.org/mayor_contact.html or go to the township’s website and click on the “Mayor’s Corner” to submit your opinion. The Township Committee would be interested and appreciative in hearing where citizens stand today.