Save Solberg Airport

Fight Eminent Domain Abuse in New Jersey

Personal Statement Given by Lorraine Solberg, Co-Owner of Solberg Airport

Solberg Airport is rich in historical significance and family tradition. 70 years ago our father completed his historic flight across the North Atlantic, from New York to Norway. That flight was significant both to the development of commercial air routes to Europe and to the security of the United States during the 2nd World War. Four years later in 1939, with a dream of bringing the future benefits of a then infant air transportation system to the people of Hunterdon County our father moved to Readington Township to build an Airfield. That dream was complete with the official opening in 1941 after Readington Township's approval to operate a commercial airport. After the Germans invaded Norway our father advised President Roosevelt where air bases could be established in Greenland and Iceland by the German Military to Bomb the US .The US Coast Gusrd was sent to investigate and found the Germans setting up bases. They were the first POWS captured by this county in WWII. US airbases were established at all the locations in Greenland and Iceland our father recommended to the president and were used throughout the war to ferry flighter planes, equpment and troops to Europe. Our Father also achieved the singular record of training, without a single mishap, 5000 military pilots to protect our country and the freedom for which it stands. Our father accomblised so much to protect our rights as Americans and the freedom that our constitution gives all Americans. One of those rights is to own private property and be able to pass on to your children the dream that you had for that property.

Statue of Thor Solberg in his hometown of Floro, Norway

Since the passing of our father in 1967 and our mother in 1972, my brother, sister and I, as the 2nd generation, have dedicated our lives to protect the heritage and legacy of our father. We take great pride in this airport, serving the community, hosting the balloon festival and sharing in the history. We would now like to pass this pursuit on to the 3rd generation to continue in the same family tradition of community service.

Our family tradition at this airport is as important to us as our
neighbors' family traditions are to them. We love this airport and the memories and history that it provides. We shouldn't have to surrender the life's work of our parents and ourselves. We shouldn’t have politicians forcibly take our airport away from us when all we want to do is continue what was started over 70 years ago.

We don’t want to sell the airport. We don’t want to develop it into homes, a shopping center or anything else. We want to keep it as a small community airport.

Solberg Airport has always maintained an open door to all, individual citizens and members of government, in order to continue improving the way in which Solberg Airport serves the community. Readington residents can enjoy the open space we have preserved without spending a nickel in tax dollars to purchase it and run it. We are surprised and disappointed the Readington Township Committee
introduced a Bond Ordinance in the amount of $22 million for the acquisition of Solberg Airport for "open space".

Even our outdated appraisals indicate the value of the airport at over $40 million and its value has since gone up. It seems highly unlikely the state or federal government is going to want to waste tens of millions of tax dollars for land not being developed and to preserve an airport that is functioning well with very few complaints.

Why would you want to waste millions of dollars for land that is not being developed and is not even being considered for development? The ultimate cost to the taxpayer when taking into consideration legal fees and operating expenses could easily reach or exceed $60 million. The impact on homeowners and property taxes could be enormous. There is no guarantee the federal or state government will help out. Why would they commit tens of millions of dollars to preserve as an airport an airport that is already preserved?

We recently conducted a public opinion poll of residents of Readington. We asked some very simple and straightforward questions.

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Solberg Airport? 72% had a favorable impression while only 12% had an unfavorable impression. I doubt any airport in the country receives such a favorable opinion from its immediate neighbors.

We asked residents whether they wanted the town to take over Solberg Airport- 77% oppose the takeover while only 9% support it. Voters overwhelmingly believe Solberg should be privately run, not run by Readington. And an extraordinary 94% of residents believe the issue of purchasing Solberg airport should be put to a public vote.

Some on the committee have questioned the validity of the survey. I say then put it to a vote—let the people decide. This survey was conducted by a prominent firm, and the questions were very straightforward—but if you don’t believe it—let the voters decide.

It's ludicrous for our small community to waste tens of millions of dollars to forcibly take our family’s airport and run it as an airport. This is an abuse of the eminent domain statute that both candidates for Governor have criticized. And it’s an abuse of the taxpayers who will have to pay for it. I hope Readington reconsiders this.