Legends Resort & Country Club

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The Legends Resort & Country Club, often called simply Legends, is a hotel located on County Route 517 in Vernon Township in Sussex County, New Jersey, United States. In the 1970s, Hugh Hefner built it as the Great Gorge Playboy Club, officially opened in 1972. The Playboy Club was closed in the late 1980s and sold and turned into Seasons Hotel. Later, Seasons was sold again to parent-company Metairie Corp., which turned into its current incarnation as the Legends Resort & Country Club.

The hotel[edit]

During the 1970s, the Great Gorge Playboy Club had 650 rooms, but various owners since that time have combined units and converted many into condominiums, reducing the total number to less than 400 rooms at the current Legends Resort & Country Club.[1] The eight-floor hotel has a cabaret, ballroom, restaurant, a fitness center, indoor pool, jacuzzis and an Olympic-sized swimming pool located outside. Most of the rooms have been renovated at least once, but some are still set up as originally constructed in 1970s decor.

History[edit]

The Playboy Club, in the 1970s, was the host of the first New Jersey Special Olympic Games.[2]

2008 murder[edit]

David Haulmark, a 36-year-old contract laborer living in the Legends Resort & Country Club, was beaten to death outside the hotel on August 17, 2008. Haulmark, an Oklahoma native who was working on a pipeline project in nearby New York, was found lying on a sidewalk near the east entrance of the resort around 3 a.m. He had been battered around the face and head, and authorities determined the cause of death to be blunt force trauma to the head, neck and face. Jacob R. Gentry, 27; Jarrod C. Gentry, 20, of Port Jervis, New York and Emily M. Henry, 24, of Plymouth, Michigan, were arrested in Port Jervis on August 17 in connection with the homicide. The Gentry brothers were charged with first-degree murder and endangering an injured victim. Henry allegedly pepper sprayed Haulmark and left the scene of the crime; she was charged with endangering an injured victim and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.[3]

Defense attorneys said Jarrod Gentry jumped in to defend his brother after Haulmark and Jacob Gentry got into a fight. Gentry family members said Jacob Gentry had previously lived in Legends and moved out due to prior physical altercations with Haulmark over Henry, who was Jacob's girlfriend. Jacob Gentry also worked as a contract laborer with Precision Pipeline, the same Eau Claire, Wisconsin-based company where Haulmark worked. The Gentry brothers and Henry, all previously lived in Michigan (the Gentry brothers are originally from Tennessee), waived their extraditions from Orange County, New York on August 19 and will be tried in Vernon.[4] The crime was the first murder charged in Sussex County in almost two years.[5]

All three suspects were incarcerated in Sussex County Jail,[6] but Jarrod Gentry was released in 2011, having been sentenced to time served.[7] Jacob Gentry was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his primary role in the murder.[8]

In December 2008, Haulmark's family sued the owners of Legends Resort, alleging that negligence of hotel staff led to Haulmark's death. According to witnesses, two hotel bartenders saw Haulmark bleeding profusely outside the hotel doors on the night of his death but did not assist him, and in fact one bartender allegedly instructed patrons not to call 9-1-1. The suit alleged that the hotel had become a "den of trouble" including fights and drug use, with frequent responses to the hotel by police. The suit also alleged that the hotel bar did not have a bouncer or check for underage drinkers.[9]

2012 Fire[edit]

On March 16, 2012, the McAfee Fire Department and other fire units from Sussex County and Orange County responded to a 9-1-1 call at 9:02PM reporting a fire at the resort. The fire was restricted to the balcony of a vacant apartment, room 518, and caused limited damage. It was under control by 10:45PM.[10][11] The fire was not considered suspicious, and may have been caused by a tossed cigarette.[10] Fire units were forced to break open the front lobby doors to the hotel since they were locked. It was reported that 35 people were inside at that time and were forced to evacuate for a brief period of time. People were already leaving the hotel through a side door when firefighters arrived.[10]

Complaints from timeshare owners[edit]

We were promised this was going to be the jewel of the Northeast, and it's the pits.

Robin Barren
timeshare owner with Legends Owners United[1]

The Legends Resort & Country Club has been subject to several complaints and lawsuits in the 2000s (decade) by timeshare owners who argued that promised amenities were no longer available and that Legends officials were being dishonest and unreceptive to their concerns. Dozens of the owners, who formed an organization called Legends Owners United, said little upkeep had been done on the property, parts of the facade were falling off, the parking lot was cracking, tennis courts were deteriorating, interior ceilings were stained, hallway lighting was spotty, plywood covered some windows and many services were regularly closed, including an indoor pool, gym, restaurant, club and store. They also claimed Legends officials failed to provide them with statements documenting where money for repairs had been spent.[12] About 1,600 people own Legends timeshares, which sold for between $8,000 and $11,000 each.[1] Timeshare buyers generated $15 million in revenue for the Metairie company, as well as thousands more each year in maintenance fees.[12]

Three lawsuits against Legends have been consolidated and are currently pending in New Jersey Superior Court; two were filed by timeshare owners alleging mismanagement or impropriety in selling timeshares while the building was in violation of state fire codes, and one seeks class-action status for all timeshare owners.[1] In a separate matter, Mountain Spa Inc., a McAfee-based spa company that rented space at Legends, sued the resort for $1 million in May 2006, alleging that the hotel frequently failed to provide heat and electricity when the spa rented space there starting in 2003. As a result, spa officials said they were frequently unable to operate its health club and had to close in August 2005.[13] Hillel Meyers, Metairie Corp. president, acknowledged to state officials in a May 2005 letter that "the property may be properly characterized as 'distressed.'"[1] Legends was previously part of RCI, one of the largest timeshare brokers in the world, but in December 2006, RCI removed it from the program, which many timeshare owners said significantly reduced their ability to trade vacation weeks with other resort locations. Legends Owners United has filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and the state Real Estate Commission.[1] State real estate regulators launched an investigation into the Legends Resort & Country Club in early 2007 in response to the complaints.[12] Legends and Metairie officials have indicated they plan to sell some of the company's assets and make improvements, but have not provided specific plans or a timetable for any such changes.[1]

Future[edit]

In 2005, the Vernon Township Zoning Board rejected a proposal by Metairie Corp. and another firm that included 372 townhouses on 580 acres (2.3 km2) surrounding the property. Township officials refused to allow any new construction at the resort until renovations were completed at the hotel itself, which officials described as an "eyesore."[1]

In 2011, the Vernon Township Council made several suggestions for the future of the Legends Resort property, including a potential Sussex County gold course, a medical center, or a community college.[14] Also in 2011, The New Jersey Herald reported that according to Vernon mayor Vic Marotta, the owners of Legends Resort were in negotiations to sell the property. "[The property is] a problem for our community on many, many fronts," Marotta said. If successful, the sale could lead to a $100,000 construction project within the following five years.[15]

In popular culture[edit]

Portions of the 1989 comedy See No Evil, Hear No Evil, starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, were set and filmed at the hotel, referred to simply as the "Great Gorge Resort" in the movie.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Saitz, Greg. "Vernon vacation owners share the frustration." The Star-Ledger, February 25, 2007, Business section, pg. 1. Retrieved on 2008-08-19.
  2. ^ Molnar, P. "Ceremony opens Special Olympics in Vernon". New Jersey Herald, 8-February-2011. Accessed online 2-March-2014, http://www.njherald.com/story/13987508/ceremony-opens-special-olympics
  3. ^ Fugate, Roberta and Howell, Tom Jr. "Michigan brothers arrested for murder in beating death of Oklahoma man." New Jersey Herald, pg. A1, August 19, 2008.
  4. ^ Lockwood, Jim. "3 charged in Vernon beating death waive extradition." The Star-Ledger, August 20, 2008, County News section, pg. 29.
  5. ^ Lockwood, Jim. "Brothers, woman held in fatal beating of laborer." The Star-Ledger, August 19, 2008, County News section, pg. 29.
  6. ^ Howell, Tom Jr. "Trio suspected of homicide in Vernon might claim self defense." New Jersey Herald, August 21, 2008, pg. A1.
  7. ^ Sistrunk, J. "Man charged in Vernon murder goes free." New Jersey Herald, 2011. Accessed online 2-March-2014, http://www.njherald.com/story/15972845/man-charged-in-vernon-murder-goes-free
  8. ^ Sistrunk, J. "Pipeline worker gets 30 years for beating death in Vernon." New Jersey Herald, 17-September-2011. Accessed online 2-March-2014, http://www.njherald.com/story/15488404/pipeline-worker-gets-30-years-for-beating-death-in-vernon
  9. ^ Howell, T. "Legends Resort sued over death." New Jersey Herald, 19-December-2008. Accessed online 2-March-2014, http://www.ckclaw.com/Pdf/ParisEliades.pdf
  10. ^ a b c Stevens, K. "Balcony damaged by fire at Legends Resort." New Jersey Herald, 17-March-2012. Accessed online 2-March-2014, http://www.njherald.com/story/17180410/balcony-damaged-by-fire-at-legends-resort
  11. ^ Novinson, M. "UPDATE: Fire at Legends hotel in Vernon, N.J." Times Herlad-Record, 16-March-2012. Accessed online 2-March-2014, http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120316/NEWS/120319784
  12. ^ a b c Saitz, Greg. "Regulators probe time-share resort." The Star-Ledger, March 9, 2007, Business section, pg. 35. Retrieved on 2008-08-19.
  13. ^ "Spa sues resort over electricity." The Star-Ledger, Morris Edition, News section, pg. 29. Retrieved on 2008-08-20.
  14. ^ Mickley, J.L. "Vernon Council members envision township's future." The New Jersey Herald, 2011. Accessed online 2-March-2014, http://www.njherald.com/story/15153603/vernon-council-members-envision-townships-future
  15. ^ Mickley, J.L. "30 days in, Vernon mayor makes changes." The New Jersey Herald, August 2011. Accessed online 2-March-2014, http://www.njherald.com/story/15183092/30-days-in-vernon-mayor-makes-changes

Coordinates: 41°11′22″N 74°31′55″W / 41.1894°N 74.5319°W / 41.1894; -74.5319