Transcript Staff Writer

Blazing red and yellow mature oaks and maples form a canopy over the venerable Sooner Mobile Home Park, tucked away east of the intersection of Classen Boulevard and Constitution Avenue at 2601 Classen Blvd. since the 1960s.

About 97 owners of manufactured homes and RVs, many of them elderly and on fixed incomes, could be displaced from the peaceful 39-acre setting if rezoning to allow an apartment complex at the site is approved.

Dozens of them have called the mayor, councilmembers and city staff and plan to show up at Tuesday's city council meeting to protest.

"I don't know where we're going to go," said Andy Hacker, a retiree who recently purchased a well-manicured 70-foot double-wide home with the intent of living there "until I'm gone."

Hacker and his wife Fern and recently sold their California home to move closer to family in the area. He said they paid a premium price for the home because of its location in Sooner Mobile Home Park.

"We've got a truckload of furniture coming," said Fern Hacker.

"I'm losing my shirt and they may take my trousers too," Andy Hacker said, bemoaning the expense in the thousands of dollars to move the double-wide.

RV owner Gerald Ragozzino calls himself a humanist and naturalist who loves the quiet setting.

"This place is so pretty," he said, with deer, possums, foxes, raccoons, turkeys and other wildlife.

Ragozzino contends there is an ancient American Indian burial ground under the park, according to comments he heard from former residents. Legend has that the land was blessed by a medicine man to keep tornadoes away.

"What it is --?you can't deny," he said.

Another RV owner Gerald Webb, a Muscogee-Creek Indian, said two screech owls circled the park for several days making plaintive cries.

Webb said he didn't want to be alarmist, but in the Native American cultures, owls can mean death. At the least, owls mean something bad will happen there.

"You can take that any way you want it -- depends on your beliefs," he said. "I don't want to be alarmist, but it could have repercussions."

The retired Southwest Airlines employee said he moved here from Tucson, Ariz., where disturbing Indian burial grounds had caused what he called "Valley Fever."

"You have to have a holy man to bless the ground before they dig," Webb said. "Do they know what they've got here? I would check it out thoroughly."

Hacker said most mobile home parks won't take many of the older trailers in the park, making it impossible for the elderly residents to move.

"Where are the seniors going to get the money to move?" he said.

The Norman City Council will have the first reading Tuesday of an ordinance that would rezone the property to a Planned Unit Development from C-1 or local commercial district, RM-4 or mobile home park district, R-3 or multi-family dwelling district and A-2, rural agricultural district.

The final decision on the rezoning is scheduled to come before council at its Nov. 22 meeting.

Sooner Ventures LLC of Golden, Colo., bought the property about two years ago, said Kirk Steinbock, regional property manager. The company owns 14 parks including two in Tulsa and seven in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

If the rezoning occurs Nov. 22, and the sale goes through, residents would have about three months to move. The park's homeowners are on month-to-month leases, which gives them few rights.

"Right now, I'm told 90 days," Steinbock said. "It's possible 120 days, but no guarantees."

He said the company plans to hand out relocation packets, listing the 12 manufactured housing communities within 10 miles.

"Additionally, we will be holding a housing fair," Steinbock said, probably in December.

Sooner Ventures is negotiating to purchase two manufactured housing parks in Moore, about seven miles away. Some homes from Sooner Mobile Home Park could be moved to open spots in that park, if they are successful in buying the property.

Steinbock said those who move to one of their parks might be eligible for financial relocation assistance from the company.

Larry Lee of Fairfield Properties is the potential buyers of the park, through FF Realty LLC.

The preliminary plat for the FF Realty's Exchange Apartments indicates 264 apartments and 60 townhouses would be built on the site. The preliminary plat received the recommendation of the Planning Commission at its Oct. 13 meeting.

Seven acres of flood plain will be set aside in the PUD and not developed. The potential owners have indicated to city staff that many of the mature trees would be retained.

But for Webb, he could only think of the Joni Mitchell song, with the lyrics "they paved paradise -- put up a parking lot."

Carol Cole 366-3538 ccole@normantranscript.com

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