The owners of Sussex Airport want to thank Ms. Kathleen Gorman for her Letter to the Editor of 15 April 2022. We would however like to clarify some facts. Sussex Airport was purchased in May of 2015. The owners of Sussex Airport assumed that the Wantage officials would enforce safety laws affecting the airport — they did not, and still don’t!
For over 6 years, Sussex Airport has been asking the administration of Wantage to enforce the zoning on the lot adjacent to the airport, a lot that is approved only to store airplanes. Yet many of the tenants on this lot are storing everything but airplanes. The tenants of that lot drag race their cars, motorcycles, and snowmobiles on the Airport runway. To add insult to injury, while setting up for the Easter egg hunt just a few years ago, one of the adjacent property’s tenants and his guest, both drove their trucks onto and down the runway, nearly running over one of the airport owners in the process. One of the consequences that Sussex Airport suffers from, and continues to suffer from due to the dereliction of Wantage officials, is that Sussex Airport is the only Public Use Airport in the Northeast that is ineligible from obtaining any safety grants from the Federal Aviation Administration. Airports cannot survive without these grants. Despite all of the above, the current airport owners started the Easter egg hunt in 2017 and ran it at the airport’s own expense. This “adjacent-lot/zoning-enforcement” problem can be resolved by competent leadership in a matter of weeks. We have been waiting 6 years. Assuming the Town’s officials do their job diligently, consistently, and in a timely fashion, the airport owners plan on creating many more children friendly events and fund aviation scholarships for children, as they currently do so at other airports they own. There is a real danger to the legitimate users of the airport due to the lack of enforcement. The Wantage Township Mayor and Administration are the only ones who can eliminate this danger. The only apology that is owed is one from the Mayor and Administration of Wantage Township, to the children of Wantage, to the legitimate users of Sussex Airport, and to the owners of Sussex Airport. Let’s not forget how this same dereliction of responsibilities on the part of Wantage officials caused damage to the properties of some 15 homes adjacent to Mr. Joe Maggio’s former residence. Mr. Maggio illegally operated a concrete dumping facility in Wantage for 10 years, was eventually prosecuted, pleaded guilty, and was slapped on the hand with a $2,000 fine. A similar situation is going on here as the Township’s lackadaisical approach to zoning enforcement has resulted in the adjacent property owner operating in non-compliance to town approvals for years. Business owners who make substantially more income by breaking the zoning rules, view such negligible penalties as a cost of doing business. In retrospect, the owners of Sussex Airport should have chosen a less child associated sign. But the safety risks are real and public events face these risks as well. A more appropriate sign could have read “WELCOME TO WANTAGE TOWNSHIP, WHERE ZONING ENFORCEMENT DOES NOT EXIST!
Sussex Aviation, LLC.