Oklahoma Park Owners Face Big Tax Bill
City councilors were unable to come to an agreement with a Jenks, Okla., couple Monday night (May 3) after their appeal to lower a city-imposed bill for $60,000 in back taxes and penalties, according to the Jenks Journal.
City officials assert that Rodger and Lavella Sparkman owe the Tulsa suburb $60,081 in back accommodation taxes, interest and late-payment penalties for recreational vehicles parked in their Green Valley Mobile Home Park.
The property is zoned for permanent trailers, not RVs, city officals said.
Ron Cates, attorney for the Sparkmans, concedes that the RVs are in violation of the zoning code but says the tax is being misapplied because many of the RVs are permanent homes. Accommodation taxes, he said, are not designed to tax residents but rather visitors to the city.
The Sparkmans, who have owned the park for 17 years, should pay some back taxes but only on RVs that remain within the park for less than 30 days, Cates said.
“Those that are transient, we owe you tax on,” he said.
The Sparkmans are in the process of auditing the park to determine how many of the RVs should be taxed but were unable to present a final figure to councilors Monday night, Cates said.
Additionally, the Sparkmans are working to move the RVs out of their park, Cates added.
Jenks Mayor Vic Vreeland said he would be willing to work with the Sparkmans, but only if they prove they are moving RVs out of the park.
“Those RVs are in violation of our ordinance,” Vreeland said. “Half the vehicles in there are RVs. That’s not what the park was meant for.
“I’m convinced if we hadn’t sent the bill, you wouldn’t be in here telling us (you’re moving the RVs out).”
The Sparkmans were granted zoning approval to build an RV park, in addition to their mobile home park, in Jenks in 1995 and were given a two-year extension in 2002, records from the city show.
Disputes about whether the land was located in a floodplain kept the Sparkmans from completing the park, Rodger Sparkman told councilors.
Councilors voted to table any decision until the June 21 meeting, giving the Sparkmans time to complete their own assessment of the RVs. Interest on the back taxes is not accruing in the meantime, City Manager Mike Tinker said.
“You better believe I’m going to count the RVs the first thing in the morning,” Vreeland said. “There better be a lot less of them by the time you come back in June. That’s 45 days.”
Green Valley Estates isn’t a stereotypical “trailer park.
There’s no trash or junkyard feel. Instead, the park looks more like a suburban neighborhood. It’s neatly kept with manicured lawns, gardens full of flowers and owners who take pride in their homes.
The mobile homes and recreational vehicles there have become permanent establishments for people, mostly older than 65, who can’t afford to live anywhere else.
“It would be a real tragedy if this place was shut down,” said Helen Rossiter, who has lived in the park off and on for about 12 years. “There are so many older people who live here who have no place to go. It would be a disaster if they were forced to move from this place, from their homes.”
Rossiter said she believes the council’s issue with the park has more to do with a personal, unresolved issue between Mayor Vic Vreeland and the park owners. She declined to go into detail.
“There’s no way the mayor could have a problem with this area itself,” she said. “There’s no riffraff here. People only put out their trash on trash day; a maintenance worker regular takes care of the lawns; where’s the issue?”
One man said he couldn’t afford to live anywhere else and that his RV was his home.
“We don’t just come and go from here,” said the resident, who declined to give his name. “Most people who have RVs for fun have them outside their house. We can’t afford a house.”
He added that most of the people he knew from around the park were older and lived on fixed incomes.
“I can’t afford to go to the market to get food,” he said. “I go fishing down by the river for food.”
Rossiter said the only people who are exceptions to the permanent residents are the construction workers who live in the area while working on a project.
“They don’t bother anyone,” she said. “This is their home, too.”