Great Gorge Village residents hold protest

Say community is being ‘mismanaged;’ governing body ‘corrupt’


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  • PHOTO BY BOB BREESE Protesters are shown outside Great Gorge Village on Sunday in Vernon Township.



BY ERIKA NORTON

About 30 residents of Great Gorge Village took to the streets Sunday to protest the management and governing body of their private community.

According to Vangie Bagni, a Great Gorge townhouse resident for 18 years and a member of one of the section boards, both the quality of life and safety of residents have taken a hit due to the neglect from three entities — the governing body or Master Council, the management company Comet Management, and their security company Comet Security. Despite over $5 million in homeowners’ dues being collected by Comet, protesters say they have “failed to provide a safe environment” for the over 1,300 residents.

“If you go on all of the main thoroughfares, everything looks nice if you don’t look too closely,” Bagni said. “But when you get up on the side of the mountain in places where it's off the main roads, it's just atrocious and dangerous.”

With the community having its own bylaws, residents have tried to change things through the council, Bagni said. However, due to corporate interests from board members, they have not been able to change things.

Protesters also accuse the Master Council and Comet of corruption, alleging that the original developer violated NJ State Statutes.

Calls to Comet Management were not returned by press time.

Compound problemFor many residents, these issues of deteriorating infrastructure and insufficient maintenance are compounded by their increasing sewer bills. The township water and sewer system is facing a debt of more than $40 million from bonds, which will eventually fall on existing ratepayers if nothing is done.

Bagni said many Great Gorge residents are retired, living on a fixed income, and already are having trouble paying their bills.

“Now that the debt on these bonds is becoming due, it’s really gonna hit us,” Bagni said. “By 2020, there’ll be probably be in the neighborhood of $600 a quarter. There are a lot of people here who can’t afford it and may have to walk away. We’re being screwed as ratepayers.”

Great Gorge represents about 80 percent of the ratepayers in the entire town of Vernon, according to Bagni, yet make up less than 5 percent of the population. It's unfair for them to have to carry the burden instead of all taxpayers, he said.

To try and alleviate this burden on ratepayers, Vernon Township is working on expanding the sewer system, however progress has been slow. At a joint meeting between the township council and the Municipal Utilities Authority last month, MUA Engineer Ceren Aralp said at time that settling on an expansion plan will likely take nine months to a year.

Online fundraiserDisgruntled Great Gorge residents would like to take legal action against Comet Management, Bagni said, but right now they lack the funds, so they have set up an online fundraising campaign to raise money for an attorney, filing fees and court costs.

“Now is the time to clear the GGV Master Council of Corporate self-interest, greed and neglect,” the online fundraising campaign page reads. “Your support is needed to create an honest and independent Master Council of RESIDENTS. We want board members who actually live in our community and care about the best interests of GGV -- not representatives of vacant corporate condos who only care about their company's bottom line.”

There is a $15,000 goal set for the campaign.


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