Sheppard Pratt 'retreat' should be subject to commercial zoning laws

In the past few weeks The Baltimore Sun has published several articles in which the neighbors of a proposed Sheppard Pratt facility known as "The Retreat" have been much maligned for their opposition. The Board of the Ruxton-Riderwood-Lake Roland Area Improvement Association would like to correct this mischaracterization of the neighborhood's opposition.

We, as an organization, have historically fought against intrusions into our neighborhoods that include not only Ruxton but also those in the Riderwood and Lake Roland communities. And now we are in opposition to the conversion of a single family home into a treatment center. Other nearby communities may be the next target for similar commercial intrusion.

Sheppard Pratt surely anticipated this opposition since it made no attempt to alert the association or the neighborhood of its intent to locate a facility within our boundaries. Instead, the association was notified after a contract was signed and was asked to help disseminate information about it. We notified our membership of Sheppard Pratt's intention and invited them to the April 20th information session that has been well documented by The Sun.

Opposition to the proposed treatment facility stems from a desire to prevent commercial intrusion into residential neighborhoods. The fabric of a neighborhood is irreparably frayed by each successive conversion from a residential property to a commercial use.

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 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.

Kathleen Frederick Palencar, Ruxton

The writer is zoning chairwoman of the Ruxton-Riderwood-Lake Roland Area Improvement Association.

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