Do you live in Carrboro? Are you sure?
At a recent Board of Aldermen meeting, former mayor and retired state senator Ellie Kinnaird prompted the town to, once again, ask the U.S. Postal Service about drawing the boundaries for Carrboro’s ZIP code (27510) to match the physical boundaries of the town itself.
When she was mayor (from 1987 through 1996), Kinnaird made an unsuccessful bid for such a change. Among other things, she wanted her address to match her title.
Although she was the mayor of Carrboro, her address was in Chapel Hill.
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The response to her request back then was for the post office to conduct a community survey, Kinnaird told the board. Residents were asked what they wanted.
“Some in the community wanted the ‘caché’ of a Chapel Hill address,” Kinnaird told the aldermen.
So the ZIP code maps remained the same.
Currently the northern half of Carrboro has a Chapel Hill address. The line is drawn roughly east to west smack through the middle of town. McDougle Elementary School and Hank Anderson Park have Chapel Hill addresses.
Residents in the “Chapel Hill section” pay taxes to Carrboro, get emergency services from Carrboro and are represented by the aldermen and the mayor of Carrboro.
Mayor Lydia Lavelle and Alderperson Randee Haven-O’Donnell live in Carrboro, but if you want to wish them happy birthday you have to send their birthday cards to their Chapel Hill addresses.
“My neighborhood was annexed into Carrboro in 2006, but I have always had a Chapel Hill postal address,” Lavelle said. “Since I am the mayor of Carrboro, I would like to have a Carrboro address.”
According to Monica Coachman, spokeswoman for the Postal Service, local officials or any community group can request boundaries that reflect their town.
Coachman cited USPS policy:
“The requested boundary should be consistent with the actual municipal boundary and identity of the affected area. Documented endorsement of the request by the local government is strongly recommended. This will help to ensure that the non-postal interests of all customers are represented fairly and are in concert with long-term municipal planning.”
As important as branding is, the USPS is unmoved by the self-esteem of local residents, businesses and elected officials. “The Postal Service does not adjust postal delivery designations and boundaries solely to provide local identity,” Coachman said.
When Kinnaird requested these changes over 20 years ago she wasn’t pleased with the response.
“When I was the mayor, we asked the post office to change our ZIP and address to Carrboro.” She said. “Instead, they did a survey of postal customers, asking if they wanted to change their address from Chapel Hill to Carrboro. Of course, they didn't.”
The aldermen will discuss the issue in upcoming meetings, but as a practical matter the point is moot for Kinnaird. She moved out of the “Chapel Hill” part of Carrboro and is now retired in a Chapel Hill part of Chapel Hill.