As of April 28, 2011, Sheppard Pratt now owns the house at 1506 LaBelle Avenue, according to a letter sent to the Ruxton-Riderwood-Lake Roland Area Improvement Association by Bonnie B. Katz, Vice President Business Development and Support Operations at Sheppard Pratt Health System.

The sale of this house to the institution has created a lot of backlash and speculation because of Sheppard Pratt’s intended use of the property.

The intended use for the house, according to a letter from Sheppard Pratt to the RRLRAIA is to:

provide living arrangements for individuals who are transitioning from their treatment stays at The Retreat at Sheppard Pratt (a concierge level of care program for people seeking voluntary, privately funded treatment for mental health problems), and who wish to stay in the area to extend their outpatient treatment with the Retreat. Both the Retreat and this community residence are/will be occupied by affluent individuals who chose to receive services in elegantly appointed surroundings.

The RRLRAIA takes issue with the fact that due to the nature of the center, it will apparently not have to go through traditional Baltimore County Zoning Laws (for example, current Baltimore County zoning law prevents more than three unrelated people from living together in a non-commercially zoned house or condo, but would not apply in this situation because it will be licensed as a small group home through the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene).

Kathy Frederick Palencar, Zoning Committee Chair for the RRLRAIA neighborhood association wrote an editorial to the Baltimore Sun in response to the concern:

We believe that this sale is nothing more than another commercial transaction which should be subject to the traditional zoning process. For Sheppard Pratt to hide behind the protections of federal disability laws is disingenuous. Patients benefitting {sic} from this particular treatment program pay out-of-pocket $2,000 a day; it is a “retreat” in every sense of the word. This high-end program is not a treatment program supported by insurers or Medicare, it is a for-profit business.

We do not dispute the need for such a program, but we do dispute the characterization of this facility as anything other than a for-profit business that more appropriately belongs on the Sheppard Pratt campus. As such we are working with our legislative representatives to seek a solution.

On April 20, 2011, Sheppard Pratt held a public meeting, where Delegate Bill Frank, Nancy Surosky from County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s office, and County Council representatives, Vicki Almond and David Marks were in attendance, and were addressed by Ms. Palencar in a prepared statement.

There is a website and a facebook page devoted to stopping “The Retreat” in Ruxton, created by neighbors vehemently opposed to the planned use of the house.