Proposed group homes decried Loch Raven residents oppose plan for mentally ill to live in townhouses

September 22, 1997|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

A proposal by a Sheppard Pratt subsidiary to open two homes for the mentally ill in Loch Raven Village near Towson has created an uproar in the 50-year-old townhouse community of almost 1,500 homes.

Residents are bombarding elected officials with letters and faxes of protest. Towson Republican Councilman Douglas B. Riley, who supports his constituents' opposition, calls the furor one of the hottest issues in his seven-year tenure.

"It's a very emotional issue," said Lily Raines, who lives near the site of one of the proposed homes in the 8100 block of Clydebank Road. "It seems like a lot of burden for one neighborhood."

Officials of Cockeysville-based Dulaney Station -- a subsidiary of Sheppard Pratt and Enoch Pratt Foundation, which oversees Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Towson -- say they are merely trying to provide living quarters for disabled residents in a county with little affordable housing.

"There is a need for low-cost housing with a support component," said Jeffrey W. Richardson, executive director of Dulaney Station. "These are not violent, psychotic, crazy murderers."

Dulaney Station provides residential services to 70 clients, all county residents, in six homes and 15 apartments. It has a waiting list, Richardson said. Typically, clients are in their mid-30s and have mental illnesses such as manic depression.

Loch Raven Village residents question why Dulaney Station wants to put clients in attached houses within a block of one another -- on Clyde Bank Road and in the 8100 block of Glen Gary Road. They also are concerned that the tenants -- three in each house -- would be unsupervised except for drop-in visits by counselors.

Dulaney Station officials say the homes will be visited at least once a week, and residents will have a 24-hour phone number to call with concerns.

Richardson said Loch Raven Village, which is near stores and bus lines, is a good area for its clients. Still, the close proximity of the homes worries residents and elected officials.

"I don't think they belong in row homes," Riley said.

Karl Aumann, chief administrator for Republican Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., whose 2nd District includes Loch Raven Village, said, "There is a concern about the density question. It just doesn't sound to the congressman like something that should be funded."

Dulaney Station has applied to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for a grant to purchase the two Loch Raven Village homes and a townhouse in Cockeysville.

It is competing with other providers for the money, which is expected to be awarded next month, Richardson said. A HUD spokesman said he could not discuss details of the applications.

Meanwhile, Dulaney Station officials are trying to recover from a community meeting with about 200 residents this month that escalated into heated exchanges.

Dulaney Station officials say they will offer tours of some homes so residents can see how they operate. And they plan to include neighbors on an advisory board if the nonprofit organization receives the HUD money.

Pub Date: 9/22/97

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