Sheppard Pratt completes Ruxton purchase for rehab center

Plan to convert six-bedroom house to group home sparked opposition from neighbors

May 04, 2011|By Raven L. Hill, The Baltimore Sun

Sheppard Pratt Medical Systems is now the owner of the Ruxton home that it plans to convert into a controversial high-end mental health rehabilitation center.

The hospital completed the approximately $1.4 million purchase of the six-bedroom, six-bathroom house on Labelle Avenue last week. The original asking price was about $1.7 million.

Hospital officials said they plan to use the house as a treatment center for wealthy patients who are transitioning from treatment at The Retreat at Sheppard Pratt, a private mental health care facility. Patients will be undergoing treatment for issues such as depression and anxiety.

Some patients may also suffer from substance abuse problems, according to hospital officials, who said they intend for the house to be drug- and alcohol-free. Up to eight individuals would live in the house at a time, on average for six months.

Experts say Sheppard Pratt's proposal is protected by federal and state housing laws.

Members of the community are in an uproar over the plan, arguing that it is an unacceptable fit for the affluent, close-knit neighborhood, and will lower property values, exacerbate parking problems and possibly endanger their children.

They have tried to rally support from elected officials, posted lawn signs throughout the neighborhood, created a Facebook page and circulated petitions against the plan, which some call "Hotel Labelle." Former homeowner Jim Carroll could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Sheppard Pratt hopes to open the group home this year, said Bonnie Katz, vice president for business development and support operations.

Although rates at The Retreat run about $2,000 daily, the group home will be less expensive, she said.

Katz said officials have continued talks with residents about their opposition to the plan, but there have not been any formal meetings since the last one in April. A mostly hostile crowd of about 250 people attended that meeting.

Kathy Mountcastle, president of the Ruxton-Riderwood-Lake Roland Area Improvement Association, said she is hopeful about the relationship between Sheppard Pratt and the neighborhood.

"Sheppard Pratt has contacted us about forming a neighborhood advisory group to help alleviate some of the residents' concerns," she wrote in an email. "The association believes that, if this project moves forward, a constructive dialogue between the hospital and the neighborhood is essential."

raven.hill@baltsun.com

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