LETTER – The Truth is Out in Readington actions were found to constitute a “manifest abuse of the power of eminent domain”

The Truth is Out in Readington

By now most residents are aware that Readington lost the Solberg condemnation trial in a very big way.

Readington’s actions were found to constitute a “manifest abuse of the power of eminent domain” because Readington falsely represented to the Court that its motives were about open space and the environment when, in fact, they were about controlling airport expansion – a purpose declared illegal by the Appellate Court in 2009.  The Court saw right through Readington’s deceit, which is apparent from its opinion that expressly states that “the objective evidence depicts nothing less than deliberate subterfuge on the part of Readington Township,” and that the testimony of Township Committee members as a whole was “lacking in credibility and therefore unworthy of belief.”

The Court further found that in its efforts to secure voter approval for the $22M bond referendum in 2006, Readington officials deceived the public in a way that “demonstrates a shared cynical attitude toward the electorate and an imprudent lack of public candor concerning the overall costs of the first time use of eminent domain.”  The Court went so far as to state that their actions “offends the conscience of the Court”

Duffy and Smith, as long-time members of the Planning Board, played a role in Readington’s “deliberate subterfuge.”  The Planning Board amended its “Master Plan” so that it would support Readington’s contrived argument that the Solberg property was being condemned for open space and environmental reasons.  Given the timing of these actions –  only after the 1999 conditional approval of the Solberg Master Plan by the DOT – the Court found them disingenuous, expressly stating “the Court’s evaluation of the municipal planning documents subsequent to this event leads it to one conclusion: that the Township would use the irregular tool of eminent domain to control the airport’s development.”  In other words, the portions of municipal planning documents relating to the Solberg property following 1999 were created to bolster Readington’s “bad faith” condemnation efforts.

The bottom line is that Readington lost because our municipal officials were deceptive and untruthful in court and with the public, and because it had illegally exercised its power of eminent domain.

For residents, it is time to face the reality that we LOST and that we can now only hope that the Solbergs will be willing to work with Readington in the future.  They certainly do not have to in view of their all-out win at trial.  I highly doubt, however, that this hope will come to fruition if we maintain a majority on our township committee that played such a large role in the “bad faith” litigation against them that spanned over a decade.

We need new faces on our Readington Township Committee if we are to have any chance at reaching a solution on Solberg Airport that will protect the interests of residents.  We further need to restore honesty, integrity and transparency in our municipal government.

Please vote for Lelah & Lyons on June 2nd.

Melissa Szanto
Readington Township