Stillwater News Press

December 10, 2012

The Ranch could hold groundbreaking in October

By Chris Day
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — A $65-million continuing care retirement community could break ground early next fall with construction completed by mid-2015.

Earlier this year, a fall 2013 groundbreaking for The Ranch seemed unlikely. Its developer and management company, Epworth Living, canceled plans to turn 40 acres in southwest Stillwater into The Ranch because of the city’s longstanding water pressure problems in that area.

Water pressure was a significant issue, The Ranch Vice President of Community Development Scott Petty said. It created concerns for the retirement community itself and its impact on water pressure at nearby houses.

Stillwater officials have plans in place to boost water pressure in the area. It will take years for the multi-phase project to completely fix the problem.

Epworth Living officials started a search for land in north Stillwater. Several sites were considered, Petty said. Some were in the flight path of Stillwater Regional Airport, which would have prevented the company from building multiple-floor structures.

That’s where former U.S. Rep. Wes Watkins and his wife, Lou, enter the picture.

They were committed to The Ranch, planning to sell their home and 55 acres to move to the facility when it was completed, Petty said.

The Watkins told Petty they would consider a donation/land transaction package that would give The Ranch a home in northern Stillwater. A basic agreement has been completed, Petty said. The final details should be worked out next month.

“The terrain and beauty of that property of Wes’ and Lou’s was really ideal,” Petty said. “It is right next to the golf course. The city-owned golf course was an appealing situation as well.”

Epworth Living’s design and engineering teams adapted the southwest Stillwater designs to the new property and the company is rapidly negotiating the annexation, rezoning and permitting process, he said. The rezoning process should be completed at the Dec. 17 Stillwater City Council meeting.

The next step

More than 190 people have joined The Ranch’s Pioneer Club by giving Epworth Living a $1,000 refundable deposit that allows them to review the site plans, pick their unit location and floor plan and put up a 10-percent deposit. Once 100 people have put up their deposit, a ground-breaking can be held, Petty said.

“Since we’ve accelerated and beat national averages in terms of the interest of the $1,000 depositers, we think probably six months is reasonable to get the commitments to actually break ground.”

Epworth Living also is determining its financing methods — bank loans or bonds, Petty said. Bank financing is the better long-range option because it can be paid off more quickly than a bond issue and the rates are lower.

“We’ve met with several local banks and those meetings continue,” he said.

What is continuing care retirement facility?

“It is a resident-driven, faith-based, gated continuing care retirement community. It will provide a home for life, which is really important, because if someone were to run out of money — no fault of their own, we aren’t going to make them move out of our campus,” he said. The Ranch will be a self-contained, gated community. It will have 114 apartments, 19 larger cottages, 20 memory support residences, 20 skilled nursing rooms, 20 long-term care apartments and 48 assisted living residences.

It also will feature a bank, convenience store, two restaurant-style dining facilities, a barber and beauty salon, a chapel, hobby zones, libraries, nature trails and a wellness and fitness center.

The Ranch has an agreement with Oklahoma State University’s Big Orange Bus (BOB) to provide transportation to campus events. The Ranch also will provide transportation to residents for medical appointments, shopping, etc., in Stillwater.

There is also enough acreage to expand, if needed, Petty said.