New Life Village
New Life Village is located at 1300 E. Ayers St. in Edmond, Oklahoma. (Joe Tomlinson)

(Update: The City of Edmond filed its petition against Edmond Medical Complex, LLC, in Oklahoma County District Court on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. The article below remains in its original form.)

Two weeks after declaring New Life Village a public nuisance owing to persistent issues with code compliance and criminal activity, the Edmond City Council voted unanimously Monday to file suit against the property owners in Oklahoma County District Court in an effort to abate the property.

“We gave a very detailed list. There were violations. There were things that need to be done, and they haven’t,” said Christin Mugg, Ward 3 councilwoman. “I think we have to do what we have to do to keep our community safe.”

Edmond city departments and the OKC-County Health Department found numerous health and municipal code violations during full inspections of the facility Feb. 28. Those inspecting the property found rodent droppings, numerous living and dead roaches, exposed electrical wiring and nonfunctioning and missing smoke alarms, among a laundry-list of other violations.

Ivan Smith, the city’s code inspection supervisor, said he found improvement at the property Monday morning. Still, he said about 70 percent of the violations initially identified remain unaddressed.

“Initially, (…) we identified 59 violations on the first floor — 20 percent of those have been corrected. On the second floor, we identified 127 violations — less than 1 percent of those have been corrected. On the third floor, we identified 177 violations — none of those have been corrected. On the outside, there were approximately 33 violations identified, and 7 percent of those have been corrected,” Smith said.

Barry Moore, Ward 2 councilman, said the property owner has not done enough to alleviate the facility’s code violations.

“If the property owner were a baseball player, they wouldn’t even make the minor league with a batting average like that,” Moore said. “I know that [the property owner’s attorney] is doing his work to represent his client. It’s just not good enough, and at the rate this is going, we could be sitting here a year waiting for this to be resolved.”

Mayor Darrell Davis said the Edmond City Council must take district court action, as prior efforts to address the property have been unsuccessful.

“There is a process we need to go through because the processes that we have gone through for the past year and the times before that did not work out,” Davis said.

Council members did not give a timeline or direction for evicting the property’s tenants, many of whom are veterans. Christy Batterson, the city’s housing and community development manager, said the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency is working to get those veterans new housing vouchers. She said it would take approximately 60 to 90 days for OHFA to approve those vouchers.

“Currently, there are six of the 20 that are vouchered, so there are residents that are not vouchered that are in the process of getting new vouchers to move,” Batterson said.

Man found dead at property March 4

Public records indicate that, since 2003, New Life Village has been owned by Edmond Medical Complex LLC, a company registered to “Rayesh K. Narula.” However, that spelling appears to reflect a typo, as Dr. Rajesh Kumar Narula was identified at the Feb. 26 council meeting as the owner of the property.

At that meeting, council members directed Narula to:

  • Add no new residents to the property;
  • Bring the building in compliance with municipal code by Monday’s meeting;
  • Install security cameras on the property to be operating 24/7 by Monday’s meeting;
  • Hire a CLEET-certified security guard to be on the premises 24/7 by 5 p.m. March 1 and provide the city with a copy of the agreement;
  • Mark the elevator with yellow caution tape and a “Do not enter” sign if it remains unlicensed.

Smith, the code inspector, and Mike Fitzgerald, Edmond’s assistant fire chief, said occupants were found on the second floor during the Feb. 28 inspection. They said an occupant had been found on the third floor during a prior inspection, despite neither of those floors being authorized for occupancy. Shadid later said he “believed” they were two former employees who previously lived on the property.

Narula, who has previously faced criticism for ownership of violation-riddled assisted living centers, is being represented by attorney Danny Shadid, who told council members Monday there is one more security camera that still needs to be installed at the property. Shadid also said a Department of Labor employee did an inspection on the property’s elevator Feb. 27 and found “no violations” related to it.

Shadid said Narula began contracting with Blackhawk Security for around-the-clock services beginning March 1, but he said they were unable to get a security guard on site 24/7 until March 6. During the interim, Shadid said Narula contracted with individual CLEET-certified officers on a “sporadic” basis. Edmond city attorney Madeline Sawyer said Shadid did not provide the city with the signed contract until Sunday.

Edmond Police Chief J.D. Younger said the Edmond Police Department and Edmond Fire Department have responded 20 times to the property since the Feb. 26 meeting, including eight traditional police calls-for-service, nine proactive police responses and three fire calls-for-service.

One of those calls pertained to a 68-year-old resident who was found dead from an apparent drug overdose March 4. The Edmond Police Department identified the deceased Wednesday as William Webb and said an official cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner.

Although EPD stated drug overdose is Webb’s suspected cause of death, Shadid said the the man died from “natural causes,” later clarifying that he meant the death was not a result of foul play. Ward 1 Councilman Tom Robins took issue with Shadid’s statement, before scolding him.

“Let me get something straight, this isn’t a courtroom. You’ve brought your court reporter, but just because you bring a tux and somebody else brings a dress doesn’t mean that we get married and play house,” Robins said. “I represent the people of my district, of my ward, and I have pledged to them that we will have a community that has property owners that are safe, that take care of their properties.”

Shadid said Narula and the owner of Blackhawk Security were out of town, which caused them to miss council members’ March 1 deadline for hiring 24/7 security.

“Are there not more than one security company in this state that service this area? Was that the only option?” Robins said. “Someone died on March 4.”

Shadid said the lack of 24/7 security on-site had “nothing to do” with the man’s death.

“That’s your opinion,” Robins said.

Shadid said day-to-day operations of New Life Village have been turned over to Zoe Healing Center, a Christian-based nonprofit organization. But he said he believes Narula is going to contract with a property management company to take over operations.

Follow NonDoc’s Edmond coverage

Archives | Twitter | Edmond Email

Council sets June 18 lodging tax election

Council members voted 4-0 to set a June 18 election date for a ballot question asking Edmondites whether to increase the city’s lodging tax rate from 4 percent to 6 percent. The lodging tax is levied on overnight stays in hotels, bed and breakfasts and Airbnbs.

Robins, the Ward 1 councilman, left the chambers before discussion of the item began, stating that he had to catch a work-related flight Monday evening.

Edmond’s 4 percent lodging tax was approved in May 1994 and has remained unchanged for 30 years. Edmond’s lodging tax is dedicated to to the city’s tourism efforts, led by Visit Edmond. The proposal could add up to $350,000 annually to the organization’s budget, said Jennifer Thornton, director of Visit Edmond.

“The Chamber of Commerce is ready to say, ‘Vote yes,'” Thornton said.

Stacie Peterson, Ward 4 councilwoman, said she is excited about the potential increase in tourism activities.

“It’s 30 years in the making,” Peterson said. “It’s time.”

During the presentation, Thornton referred to the lodging tax as a “visitor’s tax” to highlight that only those staying in hotels or Airbnbs would pay it. However, the city’s budgetary shuffling of lodging tax dollars makes the situation more complicated.

Set by a December 2000 ballot question that proposed a now-approved public safety sales tax, a city ordinance also requires the Edmond Fire Department to be funded by 30 percent of all General Fund revenues. Similarly, it also requires the Edmond Police Department to be funded by 36.8 percent of all General Fund revenues.

“General Fund revenues are those which currently come from the following sources: taxes, licenses and permits, fines and forfeitures, charges for services, interest and miscellaneous revenues,” states Section 4 of Ordinance No. 2575.

In 2015 and 2016, city staff met with representatives of the police and fire unions to resolve the interpretation of the term “taxes” within the ordinance. Per a 2016 memorandum of understanding between the City of Edmond, FOP Lodge 136 and IAFF Local 2359, the parties agreed to interpret “taxes” to include sales tax, use tax, franchise tax, liquor tax, lodging tax, alcohol tax, cigarette tax, and gas and vehicle tax, effective with the passage of the 2016-2017 budget.

Essentially, the MOU meant that about two-thirds of the revenue brought in by each of those tax sources is now directed to the city’s police and fire departments.

However, because state statute requires lodging tax revenue to be dedicated to a specific purpose, the city gives EPD and EFD their portions of the Edmond lodging tax, then backfills the lodging tax revenue using the General Fund, which is largely supported by sales and use tax dollars, among other revenue sources.

While the confusing situation has created a city revenue dynamic largely beyond the awareness of most voters — who were not shown language on the 2000 ballot question explaining all of the ramifications — the proposed lodging tax increase set for a June 18 vote has been carved out so as not to trigger the public safety funding ramifications.

A December 2021 agreement between Edmond officials and the police and fire unions means that if voters choose to increase lodging tax rate to 6 percent in the June 18 election, the 2 percent increase will not be considered when calculating the revenues set aside for the police and fire departments.