Action 9: Developers forced to ditch traditional mail boxes

by: Jason Stoogenke Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

Residents who buy a house in a new neighborhood may expect it comes with a mailbox, but not anymore.
 
The U.S. Postal Service changed the rules in 2012, but many people are just now finding out the hard way. 
 
USPS spokesperson Monica Coachman told Action 9 via email, "At roughly $30 billion annually, delivering mail to the 152 million addresses in the United States is the largest, single fixed cost the Postal Service incurs." 
 
As a result, new neighborhoods shouldn't install individual mailboxes and go with cluster mailboxes in most cases like apartment complexes. Otherwise, letter carriers may not deliver. They'll still drop off packages to homes, however.
 
Action 9 asked post office customers, "If you bought a new house, would you ask, to make sure it came with a mailbox?  Or would you just assume it does?" 
 
Tracy Buerck said, "I would assume it would."
 
The North Carolina League of Municipalities and home builders said many cities, towns and developers didn't know the rules changed. 
 
They blame USPS for not spreading the word better.
 
League spokesperson Erin Wynia emailed Action 9: "The League has been involved in discussions on this issue with the U.S. Postal Service at the federal level, along with the N.C. Homebuilder's Association and various N.C. regional development groups. The issue arose because the USPS did not inform cities and towns of this major change in mail delivery policy, yet began selectively enforcing it throughout the state. Further, the USPS has yet to produce standards for local governments and developers to follow in adjusting to this new requirement. Particularly for developments that were midway between approval of plans and actual construction, this requirement has caused significant difficulties for developers, future buyers and local governments alike. We know of several examples where property owners have lost mail service at their homes.

N.C. cities and towns handle the bulk of local development regulation, which can include guidelines on where to place Centralized Box Units, parking areas around them, stormwater controls, disability accessibility accommodations, and curb and gutter, among others. So far, the USPS has not shown interest in working with our local communities to develop these guidelines, leaving developers and municipal staff unclear as to expectations. All the while, the USPS has persisted in enforcing this policy in select N.C. communities, which have experienced trouble complying with the policy."
 
Developer Joe Padilla with Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition, said, "What we don't want to see is projects that are up and homes going vertical all of a sudden be required mid-stream to make that change because it's just too late."
 
Some developers in the Charlotte area are already ending up in that situation. They built neighborhoods with individual mailboxes. 
 
One example is the Pavilion in Huntersville. The developer had to install a cluster one too, after the fact. 
 
USPS defends its communication. 
 
"USPS has been extra vigilant about reaching out to individual developers, conversing with organizations and associations that represent developers and coordinating with city planning officials in many municipalities," Coachman said.  
 
The N.C. General Assembly is also looking to soften the blow.  The state senate introduced a bill (http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2013&BillID=S38), but it isn't going anywhere until at least January.

Some developers in the Charlotte area are already ending up in that situation. Action 9's Jason Stoogenke investigates which ones and what the state is doing to soften the blow, on Eyewitness News at 5 p.m.