William and Jean Weasener of Pennington, N.J., have spent the better part of their lives operating Twin Pine Airport (N75), but a massive increase in property taxes is forcing them to sell the privately owned, public use airport.
“The township did another tax assessment and increased the property taxes from $14,000 to $55,000,” said William Weasener, 81. “We can’t afford that. We were hoping that somebody would be willing to take the property over and maintain it as an airport, but it didn’t happen.”
The airport is being bought by Hopewell Township and will be turned into a park that will feature a playground and athletic fields.
Weasener never had the notion that he’d get rich running an airport. He bought it because he was passionate about flying and he wanted to protect his airplane.
“I was keeping my airplane at Mercer County Airport,” he said. “One day I realized that someone had been taking it without permission and put 150 hours on it. So I bought this airport and moved it here.”
Twin Pine is located in Mercer County, approximately a mile from Trenton/Mercer County Airport. It sits on about 51 acres and sports a 2,200-foot runway, 12/30.
“It’s one of the last grass strips in the area,” noted Jean Weasener. “They are just disappearing — being gobbled up.”
Among the airport’s claims to fame is that it was used by Charles Lindbergh during the Golden Age of aviation because he had a home nearby.
“This is the third time the airport has been sold,” Jean Weasener said. “There was a farmer who owned the field and he sold the main part of it to a group that opened Pennington Airport. Then it was taken over by a group called Trenton Airport. When they went bankrupt, my husband bought it. We have owned it since 1956 and done little things to improve it.”
Improvements included smoothing out and leveling the runway, as well as creating a pond and camping and picnic area.
“It was used by more than aviation people,” she said. “The community came out here a lot for recreation. We have Boy Scout troops that come out and camp on the property and fish in the pond. People need to realize that once it is gone, it is gone and won’t be coming back.”
At its peak, the airport had approximately 30 airplanes based there.
“After Sept.11, 2001, it started to die and just never came back,” William said. “When the government shut down flying, a lot of people took their airplanes apart and took them home and put them in their garages and never came back.”
He noted that the few airport tenants who remain are looking for a place to put their airplanes, including him.
“I have eight airplanes,” he said. “The oldest is a Waco UPF. I learned to fly in the 1940s after I got out of the Navy.”
Jean said she was content to hold the map for her husband. “I am a very good passenger,” she said.
The Weaseners said local pilots, including the local EAA chapter that meets on the premises and has been taking care of the runway, would prefer the airport to remain in operation, but the local municipalities have other ideas. Hopewell Township, Lawrence Township, Hopewell Borough and Pennington are the four entities that are planning the airport’s redevelopment. Its purchase price is $2.37 million.
Hopewell Township is taking the lead in the process.
“There are actually two lots that are owned by the same people. They asked us to buy the first acre this year and the balance next year for tax reasons,” said Paul Pogorzelski, Hopewell Township administrator/engineer. “We have a partnership agreement with the other entities to create a recreation facility to serve multiple municipalities. We are working out the mechanics of how that is going to work.”
According to Jean Weasener, she and her husband found out about the township’s intent to buy the airport when they read about in the local newspaper.
“They hadn’t talked to us yet,” she said. “At the time we had some other developers looking at it but when they heard that, two of them backed off, saying they weren’t going to fight the township. The other one wanted to build homes and we decided that it was better to give the kids a place to play and keep it as open space than to have mega-mansions built here.”
The Weaseners will have to do some cleanup work on the site before all of it is sold off.
“There is little stuff around the hangars, piles of old aircraft and an empty av-fuel tank and two oil tanks that were used to heat the hangar,” said Pogorzelski “There is also a nine acre site where there is some miscellaneous aircraft [stuff] buried five or six feet down. As they clean the sites up we will be buying those tracts of land.”
Pogorzelski himself is a pilot and says there has been discussion of trying to save at least part of the hangar and commemorating the airport’s place in history with a plaque, or designing the playground to have an aviation theme.
“I think it would be really cool to have the parking ringed with taxiway lights,” he said.
For more information: HopewellTwp.org