Debbie Shanin moved to a condominium community, Millponds at Marlboro, in 2005 after her second child was born.
Some of the biggest draws were the community pool, tennis courts, basketball courts and playground, she said.
Through the years, her family has gotten a lot of use out of the pool and other amenities, she said.
But it’s all been shut down since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and the management association refused to reopen even as much of life has gotten back to normal, Shanin said, noting that residents are still required to pay hundreds of dollars in monthly maintenance fees.
“The gate around the courts has been locked and the nets and rims removed,” she said. “The (playground) has a fence around it. Signs around all areas are still up, prohibiting any use.”
The residents’ long wait may finally be over.
On Thursday, the Assembly unanimously passed A4979, a bill that gives planned real estate developments immunity from lawsuits related to COVID, as long as they post warnings at the entrance to any communal space. The Senate had already passed the bill, so now it’s heading to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk for a signature.
If that happens, Millponds’ community manager told NJ Advance Media, “most likely yes,” the pool and other common areas will reopen. When asked how long a reopening would take after the bill is signed, he said, “not very long.”
That’s the closest thing to a solid response the residents have received in months, Shanin said.
THE FIGHT FOR REOPENING
In April 2020, Shanin said, residents understood why the pool and other common areas wouldn’t be reopened for that summer. But as spring 2021 approached, as people got vaccinated and the state lifted many requirements, homeowners were hopeful that life in the community would get back to normal.
“We were informed that again, due to CDC guidelines, the cost to operate the pool safely was still too prohibitive to open, even though at this point the governor had lifted mandates and increased the numbers for outdoor gatherings to 200 people,” Shanin said. “Although our community is made up of over 400 families, our pool never has more than 40 people at a time.”
As May approached, Shanin and her neighbors saw that other community pools and pool clubs in the area were reopening, some with liability waivers that would release the organization from responsibility should someone contract COVID while using the facilities, she said.
They asked management why their community couldn’t do the same.
Shanin said the community manager told her it would not reopen because of liability concerns, and it wouldn’t consider the use of a waiver.
More than half the community signed a petition, Shanin said, but that didn’t get them anywhere.
Finally, the Board said it would not consider reopening unless the governor signed what was then pending legislation into law. But even then, it would not guarantee reopening, Shanin said.
“They refuse to reimburse fees for either year for not having the amenities available, stating that the fees are for the upkeep and not specifically for use of the amenities,” she said. “If the pool is closed, there is no maintenance or lifeguards to pay, so this seems questionable. Other communities that were closed last year reimbursed their residents.”
“They are stealing summer from us,” Shanin said.
But now that the bill has passed and is expected to be signed by the governor — which could take up to 45 days — Shanin is hopeful, but she called the whole situation “absurd.”
“I hope the summer can still be saved,” she said.
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Karin Price Mueller may be reached at KPriceMueller@NJAdvanceMedia.com.
Read More: Many condo communities have yet to reopen pools, but bill passed by N.J. Assembly may