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UPDATE: New Postal Regulations Will Force Us to Adjust

By Matt Faris, Project Manager, Koontz-Bryant, P.C.

See update at the end of the article

Published May 2015

The addition of new regulations and design restrictions never seem to end. The list of criteria that engineers and developers must abide by gets longer every year. One of the latest additions directly affects new residential developments. Koontz-Bryant has been following the evolution of these regulations to ensure that the impact to our development clients will be minimal.

Most everyone knows that the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been operating at a deficit for years. While there are many suggested actions that are proposed to reduce expenses, there are two that would be most evident to the customer. One is to reduce mail delivery from six days a week to five. Another is a lesser known but more effective means of reducing costs (according to USPS studies): change the way customers receive their mail. Depending on where your next residence is, your door-to-door or curbside delivery may not be available. In fact, these changes are being required in new residential developments today.

On February 9, 2015 the Richmond Region of the USPS issued a memo to all localities in the Richmond area. The memo states that “The Postal Service no longer offers door delivery as a new option in residential areas”. In addition, a letter was written on February 4 that states “Delivery will begin in newly developed areas only upon approval from a responsible USPS representative and only to locations and equipment approved by the USPS. Street delivery may be withheld until such time as approved site location(s) are agreed upon and the required delivery equipment has been installed.”
Typical delivery equipment may be a Cluster Box Unit installation as seen in the photo. (source: USPS)
Efforts by local officials and consultants to get some clarification from the USPS have gone unanswered in the past few weeks. This is resulting in localities enforcing their own interpretation of the new rules. While most agree that door-to-door deliveries will no longer be available, there is no clear guidance on developments with attached units or small lot developments, all of which are under current review. Even projects that have been approved but not built are affected, and may require modifications to the project in order to receive mail delivery. The goal is to make the necessary modifications to the layout with sacrificing valuable building sites.

As the population ages more people will be living in senior-restricted and/or smaller residences. Regardless of whether it is a detached home/condo/apartment or an attached apartment or condominium, the way you send and receive mail will change. It is incumbent on designers and land planners to incorporate mail service into their designs. Making sure these regulations are addressed as early as possible will allow for an efficient placement of needed facilities.

UPDATE (August 2015)

On July 14, the Chesterfield County Planning Department hosted a meeting at the Chesterfield Career and Technical Center at Hull Street to discuss new postal delivery regulations. Guests included the Regional Operations Programs Specialist from the U. S. Postal Service and several managers of post offices within the county. Also invited were local developers, engineers, representatives from various county departments involved with new residential development, and representatives from the Virginia Department of Transportation. Koontz-Bryant Project Manager Matt Faris attended.

The Post Office representative spoke about the reasons for modifying new residential deliveries and the methods being implemented. The Richmond District, which covers an area from Culpeper to Chesapeake, is following some of the methods that are being implemented in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. The primary change will come with the introduction of cluster boxes to serve residential developments. Generally, there will be no door-to-door service, and very little curb service allowed in new developments once this plan has been fully implemented.

The meeting enabled affected parties to discuss potential problems that may arise with the new system, and identify possible solutions as this moves forward. Some of the issues discussed include:

  • Potential conflict with underground utilities (gas and electric) that are now typically installed along new road frontage.
  • Potential conflicts with highway safety zones implemented by VDOT.
  • Potential loss of developable land designated for cluster box areas.
  • Questions of responsibilities such as maintenance and upkeep of these units.
  • Access of mobility-impaired customers to the cluster boxes.

It was clear that the Postal Service is well intentioned but there are many potential conflicts that must be addressed with the development community. Also, the counties will need to prepare for the full implementation of these policies by addressing the final requirements within their development standards and ordinances.

The conclusions reached at the initial meeting were:

  • There will be a committee of affected parties convened to work through these conflicts to minimize any negative impacts that the change in mail delivery will have on the general public and the development community.
  • The Postal Service will NOT invoke these requirements any sooner than January 1, 2016, in order to give all parties time to work through these issues.
  • The USPS re-affirmed that the Postal Service’s door delivery service currently offered in special circumstances will continue. (Special forms must be completed and approved by the USPS.).

Koontz-Bryant, P.C. has worked with local Post Offices in the area to make sure the preliminary site layouts comply with USPS regulations with minimum impact to developable areas. Should you need assistance with any of your development projects, or have any questions, call or email Matt Faris, PE at 804-200-1935 or by email.