City Park Rebuffs RV Park for Convicted Sex Offenders

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November 22, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

Country Meadows appears to be the ideal place to raise a family. It’s in a quiet, rural setting. The homes are mostly neatly kept and well-spaced, with big yards. It’s within city limits of Sand Springs, a suburb of Tulsa, Okla.

But many homeowners there may be unaware that less than a half-mile away, just outside city limits, an RV Park is home to 23 convicted sex offenders, according to Tulsa County records. Their crimes range from caretaker abuse to first-degree rape, the Sand Springs Leader reported.

And those residents are about to get more neighbors.

The owner of that RV park is building another one — this one inside city limits. The new park is to sit just west of the Sandel Mobile Home park, on Wekiwa Road, east of 209th W. Ave.

That spurred Sand Springs city officials to declare a vacant piece of land in the neighborhood a city park, thus prohibiting any convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of it, according to state law. Law states that sex offenders can not live within 2,000 feet of a city park or a public school or licensed day care facility.

City councilors approved the creation of the park in a special meeting last week. The land for the park was deeded to the city from the Sand Springs Home.

Troy Norris owns the RV parks, and he is furious at the city, saying he’s already sunk a quarter-million dollars into the new RV park, and the creation of a city park would hurt his business.

Norris said his tenants come through a Tulsa-based ministry that works to rehabilitate sex offenders. The people he rents to are non-violent, he said. They’ve never had problems with people in the neighborhood, he said.

“They’re the best renters you could have,” Norris said. “There’s no problems. If they do have any, they know they’ll go to jail…. I’ve never had a lick of a problem with that.”

Sand Springs Assistant Police Chief Mike Carter said the land in Country Meadows was slated to be a city park as far back as the 1980s, but for whatever reason it was never deeded over to the city.

Right now, the park is just green space, but future improvements are planned, he said. Besides, Carter said that several other city parks are just wild green space, without structures on them.

Carter said the creation of a city park would help protect homeowners in Country Meadows and Sandel Mobile Home Park from sex offenders who may move into the new RV park.

The city had to do what it could to protect its residents, he said.

“Having close to 40 sex offenders on these people’s doorsteps wasn’t in these people’s best interest,” Carter said. “But also, the city as a whole felt the need for a park for other reasons.”

Norris applied for a Special Use Permit to build the RV park on Wekiwa Road in 2008. He said the city stalled on various permits to prevent him from building the new park.

Norris said he feels like the city did that so they could create the city park in Country Meadows, preventing him from renting his lots.

Norris said he was treated differently from other RV park operators in city limits with the requirements the city set before him regarding construction permits.

“They’ve basically railroaded me and stalled me on the permits so they can get this (the creation of the city park) through the city,” Norris said.

The creation of a city park to force sex offenders to move is not a new or unique concept.

In 2008, the city of Sapulpa used a similar tactic, creating a small city park near a cluster of motels that convicted sex offenders had registered at. The sex offenders had to leave.

As part of an agreement with Zimmerman properties, construction of a new 56-unit income-qualifying apartment complex for senior citizens must include land to be provided to the city to establish a city park. That will prevent sex offenders from living in the apartments, Carter said.

But Norris said such tactics work to prevent rehabilitation of sex offenders.

“They’ve got to live somewhere,” he said. “I’m not in the heart of town, so I try to give them a chance.”

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