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North Forsyth congressman introduces bill on mailbox clusters
Wants to grandfather existing, approved neighborhoods into curbside delivery
cluster WEB
A mailbox cluster provides a centralized location for mail to be delivered to an entire subdivision, but residents have voiced concerns about accessibility and physical limitations. - photo by Jim Dean

NORTH FORSYTH – A U.S. Congressman who represents north Forsyth introduced legislation Wednesday in light of recent changes to federal postal service rules that have left some neighborhoods without a means to get their mail delivered.

House Resolution 5750, called the Common Sense Postal Delivery Restoration Act of 2016, is meant to ensure homes and neighborhoods that were eligible to receive or were receiving mail prior to the implementation of the new U.S. Postal Service rules are still able to do so to their addresses.

Congressman Doug Collins, who serves northeast Georgia in the 9th Congressional District, filed the bill after new federal rules require subdivisions to have centralized mailboxes, or cluster boxes, so all the mail for the neighborhood is delivered to one location instead of to individual homes.

However, Collins said this rule is forcing home developers to tear up already-built or permitted neighborhoods to adhere to the rules.

“This isn’t just an issue for folks who live at the end of a long dirt road. This is an issue for people who live in suburban developments, especially newer ones,” Collins said in a news release. “When you move in to a new home, you have the right to a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer about whether the mail will be brought to your door.

“The Postal Service should not be able to force developers to change the layout of entire neighborhoods after developers have already received permits and started building, and the Postal Service certainly should not be in the business of implementing rules that force private land to be used at the whim of USPS rules.”

The local post office in Cumming could not be immediately reached.

In 2014, Gary Moulder, with the Cumming Post Office, said the nationwide initiative is “more economical for us to deliver say 30 to 100 boxes at one stop instead of stopping 30 to 100 times.”

Many of the neighborhoods being affected by this change were eligible for home delivery prior to it taking effect, he said, and residents’ mail is being withheld from individual mailboxes, forcing homeowners to pick their mail up at the post office until cluster boxes are installed.

The Forsyth County News reported in January 2015 that residents in Williams Point subdivision in northwest Forsyth had their mail delivery service stopped before the cluster boxes were built.

“In many cases, the installation of these new and unplanned for cluster boxes would require developers to change plans at their own expense or even take private property from homeowners, as well as construct new sidewalks or roads,” Collins said.

In September 2015, the FCN reported that public safety personnel such as firefighters and sheriff’s deputies were concerned the lack of mailboxes at the end of each driveway 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,” Forsyth County Fire Division Chief Jason Shivers said at the time. “The company officer [in the passenger seat] is looking right down the edge of the road, much like you do for mailboxes.”

As proposed, the bill would exempt developments that had already received the necessary permits or were under construction before the rule took effect.

“This rule change is particularly harmful to senior citizens and other folks who have physical limitations who may have moved into the neighborhood expecting curbside delivery,” Collins said. “These arbitrary, last-minute changes also force developers to hastily install centralized cluster boxes in places where there is no room for them. This encroaches on homeowners’ properties and forces developers to plan new sidewalks, roads or parking spaces.”

The exemption would apply to homes eligible for personal delivery and held required permits and approvals for construction before April 5, 2012.

“After six years of a dead housing market, we are finally back building in many areas,” said former state Sen. Chip Pearson, who is now a managing partner at Cold River Partners, a real estate development company in northeast Georgia. “For the USPS to not honor their prior commitment to individual mailbox delivery is a real problem.

“Carving out a lot and developing a mail kiosk area is very costly and disruptive to these communities still shaken from the downtown.”

Pearson said the fact that early homeowners had street delivery and new ones would not is “inequitable and unfair” and that the bill is a “practical, equitable and effective solution to this issue.”

Beverly and Bryson Payne, residents at Whispering Lake subdivision in Forsyth County, said they are grateful for the potential legislation and that its passage is “crucial for safety and accessibility for over 100 families in our neighborhood. Our subdivision was planned and approved before the 2012 postal rule changed, requiring centralized mailboxes.

“We received curbside delivery for the first several months we moved in, but the post office suspended our mail until centralized mailboxes were added to the neighborhood. There are no sidewalks, as the subdivision was approved for curbside delivery, and the location our builder had to allocate has no parking or lighting, no shelter from rain and is a long walk with poor access for persons with disabilities and families with small children.”

They said the cost of adding those access points is more than the homeowners association can afford.

“All we’re asking for is to have our curbside mail delivery restored,” they said, “for all existing homes in neighborhoods planned and approved before the U.S. Postal Service changed the rules.”