Judge Blocks Eminent Domain Seizure of Private Airport


A year and half ago, I wrote about the Solberg Airport in Readington Township, New Jersey. Located about 36 miles west southwest of Newark, the Solberg Airport was privately owned and operated by the Solberg family since 1939. Three generations of Solbergs have successfully run the small airport.

In fact, the airport was so successful that the Readington Township officials decided that they wanted it for their own so they passed an ordinance declaring that they wanted to convert the privately owned airport into a municipal airport.

This is nothing more than a case of pure greed and power on the part of the Readington Township Committee. In 2006, they filed a condemnation lawsuit against the Solbergs in an attempt to force them to sell the airport to the township, but the lawsuit failed.

In November 2013, the Readington Township Committee passed an ordinance giving themselves the power to use eminent domain to seize control of the Solberg Airport. At a township meeting, every resident spoke out against the committee’s plan, but they were determined to seize the airport for themselves. The Solberg’s continued to fight the Township’s actions.

I’m happy to announce that New Jersey Superior Court Judge Paul Armstrong issued a 50 page ruling that ripped the Readington Township Committee to pieces. He stopped short of saying outright that the Township’s testimony in the case was false as he wrote:

“In the case of Solberg Hunterdon Airport this Court finds that the stated purpose of the condemnation was a subterfuge. Its sole purpose was to prevent the expansion of the airport under the pretextual banner of open space policy. Thus, given the strong inferences presented in an extensive record, the Court concludes that the Township of Readington has no reasonable public need for the Solberg property. The Court further holds that the Township’s primary purpose was never environmental protection, but rather limiting airport expansion. The Complaint was therefore presented in bad faith and is hereby dismissed pursuant to the law of eminent domain in New Jersey.”

“The foregoing analyses, findings and opinion of the Court informs and authenticates the invalidation of the condemnation in its entirety as a manifest abuse of the power of eminent domain.”

Judge Armstrong also ordered the Readington Township Committee to pay all of the legal fees incurred by the Solberg family over the years, which is in the millions of dollars.

It’s refreshing to see a judge actually rule on the law rather than on agenda, especially in today’s ever growing liberal judicial system.

Eminent domain was initially created to help cities and municipalities to fight urban blight and clean up properties that have fallen into ruin. However, I find that in most cases it’s used primarily for greed and no other reason.

In northern Kentucky, there was a long legal fight against eminent domain when a city wanted to take over private property so that a private builder could build stores on the same property. Eventually, a home owner won out and was able to save his home, but not after a long and expensive legal fight.

But in most cases, liberal courts uphold the efforts of liberal and greedy politicians and private citizens have their homes and properties stolen from them by the very government that’s supposed to serve and protect them.

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