Environmental groups lose court ruling over airfield in Ocean County

TRENTON – Two environmental groups have lost an appeal against the state over an airfield in Ocean County.

The Pinelands Preservation Alliance and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation were trying to keep the county from removing the 934-acre Robert J. Miller Airpark in Berkeley and Lacey townships from Ocean County’s Recreation and Open Space Inventory.

The Department of Environmental Protection had given approval for the amending of the open space inventory on the grounds that the lands had been erroneously listed as parkland.

Between 1966 and 1973, the county had acquired most of the land that became the Airpark, and which subsequently would primarily be used as an airport, the court stated. There was some federal funding involved, but none from the state Green Acres Program, or at the very least the involvement of such funding is unclear, the ruling states.

Beginning in about 2009, the county sought permission to remove portions of the Airpark from the open space inventory “as expeditiously as possible” because “[the Airpark] has been an active general aviation airport since [the] 1960’s.”

In May 2011, the county received permission to adjust its inventory and remove the airpark.

The Pinelands alliance had contended that inclusion of the property on the inventory “was not a mistake’’ and it should not be removed.

“The DEP ultimately concluded that a ‘bona fide error’ occurred in the  county’s (inventory) because the Airpark’s lands, duly subject to the superseding oversight of the FAA, were being used for an airport, not for recreation or open space purposes under Green Acres guidelines,” the court stated.

Environmental groups lose court ruling over airfield in Ocean County