A Tulsa company negotiating the possible purchase of a vacant nursing home in northwest Muskogee is backing off its plans to convert the nursing home to a halfway house.

Howard Johnson, a principal owner of Majestic Corrections Corp. of America, said he and his partner want to buy the former Windcrest Care Center at 2100 Martin Luther King St., but plans for the parcel have changed.

According to Johnson, the company has shifted its focus toward the development of some sort of shelter. He said conversations he has had with people in Muskogee indicate a need for a shelter that could either serve the homeless, or women who are battered or have problems with substance abuse.

“The people we have talked to have told us there appears to be a need for shelter facilities in Muskogee,” Johnson said.

Johnson said when his company began negotiations to purchase the former nursing home, the Department of Corrections supported plans to develop a halfway house. DOC officials, Johnson said, later appeared to withdraw its support for Majestic’s plans.

“Since my partner’s forte was in corrections we thought that is where we would get started,” Johnson said. “But we have been discouraged and right now we’re in a quandary.”

Johnson said if Majestic is able to acquire the property, any development would be operated with sufficient oversight and security.

Residents who live in the vicinity of the abandoned nursing home, however, say they have concerns their voices won’t be heard with regard to the possible development of the site.

City Planning Director Gary Garvin said the parcel is zoned for commercial use and would require no further action by the city regardless of whether the facility is used as a halfway house, an intermediate-sanction facility or some other type of shelter.

Garvin said he was mistaken about which real estate parcel was being eyed by investors for development of a halfway house when he said last week the property was zoned as public property.

According to Garvin, the only thing a developer would have to do before opening a shelter or halfway house is to apply for a certificate of occupancy.

Muskogee lawyer Allen Counts expressed opposition to the development of any type of correctional facility at the nursing home site but reserved judgment with regard to a possible shelter.

“Obviously a shelter is less intimidating than a halfway house,” Counts said. “But our concern is that the community should have a chance to either oppose it (the development of a shelter) or support it before it is up and running — after that it’s too late.”

Counts said too many times development projects are slipped into residential landscapes without notice to people who live in the neighborhoods.

Muskogee resident Charles Morrison echoed Counts’ comments.

“We just want everybody to know that we want to have a say in what happens in our community,” Morrison said. “We want an opportunity to be heard.”

Voicing your opinion

A nursing home being eyed by potential developers as shelter for the homeless or women who are battered or have problems with substance abuse is located in Ward IV. Residents of Ward IV can contact their city council representatives, Jim Richey and James Roy Johnson, by calling 684-6273 or mailing letters to City of Muskogee, (Council Member's Name), P. O. Box 1927, Muskogee, OK 74402-1927.

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