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Cluster mailboxes raise public safety concerns in Forsyth County
Authorities are suggesting that houses that dont have have a mailbox in the yard display a number plate like this. - photo by Jim Dean

FORSYTH COUNTY — Federal mailbox guidelines are causing headaches for emergency personnel, though that soon could change in Forsyth County.

During a recent work session, the county commission seemed open to holding two public hearings on whether new neighborhoods — which are required to use cluster mailboxes instead of one per house — must also have a post displaying the address number at every driveway.

The idea behind the federal shift to a centralized form of delivery — similar to what’s found at apartment complexes — is that it will lower costs for mail carriers by reducing the number of stops.

Though there has been pushback to the concept from both homebuyers and developers, public safety personnel such as firefighters and sheriff’s deputies have a different concern. They worry the lack of mailboxes could slow down emergency response times.

“The [fire engine] driver pays attention for children, animals, cars parked in the way. The driver’s got a lot that he has to do, most especially at night,” said Forsyth County Fire Division Chief Jason Shivers. “The company officer [in the passenger seat] is looking right down the edge of the road, much like you do for mailboxes.

“That’s our biggest concern is to make sure that we’re not having to look to our right for a house front somewhere, but on the street where a mailbox would be.”

According to Shivers, the issue is likely larger for law enforcement, as typically there is just one deputy per vehicle.

If the requirement to add posts occurs, Shivers said it is unlikely the county would need to involve code enforcement, as the majority of the affected neighborhoods have homeowners associations to enforce rules.

According to proposed changes to the county’s unified development code, the posts would need to be made of wood, vinyl, steel or aluminum and be a minimum of 42 inches tall. Heavy metal pipes, concrete posts or other “potentially dangerous supports” would not be allowed.

A suggestion to instead have homeowners paint the house number on the curb was discussed but dismissed.

“Sometimes, when the number is painted on the curb, it is hard to see at night or sometimes there are vehicles that are parked in front of it or the paint fades and it’s hard to see,” said Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt.

The commission is expected to officially approve holding the hearings later this week, after which time they’ll be scheduled.