When Builders and Postmasters Disagree

Filed in Land Development by on June 7, 2017 0 Comments

Curbside delivery is fading fast.

The mailman is doing everything possible not to go the way of the milkman: extinction. So the U.S. Postal Service is cutting costs wherever it can just to stay afloat.

Door delivery and curbside delivery are quickly becoming things of the past in an effort to save time and money. The decision of delivery location now lies with the regional postmasters, who predominantly view cluster box units (CBUs) as the most cost-efficient option.

But what happens when builders and postmasters don’t agree on the best delivery method? Just ask the members of the Tidewater HBA in southeastern Virginia.

Shortly after a development project in Chesapeake, Va. had been approved last year, the developers received word that the Postal Service had updated its Postal Operational Manual (POM) and was retroactively enforcing the new requirements. It gave increased authority to the regional postmaster who required CBUs in the development instead of the previously approved plans for curbside delivery.

Even though Tidewater members expressed their willingness to comply with the new policy on projects going forward, there was no practical way to incorporate CBUs within the pre-approved subdivisions — it would have required a re-allocation of land and the creation of an HOA to maintain the infrastructures associated with the CBUs.

Tidewater’s initial attempts to have its members’ subdivisions grandfathered in under the previous policy were unsuccessful.

“Throughout the entire six-month process, we had to deal with five separate postmasters,” said Josh Clark, the former staff vice president with the Tidewater HBA who now serves as the executive vice president of the HBA of Greater Kansas City.

“Ultimately, our local congressman hosted a conference call with the head lobbyist [for the Postal Service] in D.C.,” Clark continued. “If not for our ability to leverage our relationships with our congressman to get the postmasters to act, we wouldn’t have achieved our goals.”

Eventually, the two sides reached an agreement that all projects in the region approved prior to April 8, 2016, would be grandfathered in under the old rules.

Lessons Learned

  • Convene a meeting between builders, the regional postmaster and local planning staff to review delivery requirements and agree on a system of implementation.
  • Ask the regional postmaster to conduct a presentation on the design, location and maintenance of CBUs.
  • If you have an unresponsive regional postmaster, contact your congressman’s office to obtain grandfathering for projects already approved (be patient, as this may take a while).

If you are unsure who your regional postmaster is, the USPS maintains an online directory. For more information, contact NAHB’s Claire Worshtil at 800-368-5242 x8309.

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