Town leaders are looking at ways to fulfill new requirements from the United States Postal Service while trying to avoid major inconveniences for residents and residents-to-be.
Because of a change mandated by the USPS, subdivisions are now required to have central mailbox locations so postal workers do not have to go to individual homes.
Knightdale amended their Unified Development Ordinance last week to set requirements for mail kiosks in subdivisions – spaces in recreational areas or clubhouses residents will have to use to retrieve their mail.
“We’re trying our best to work with people so there isn’t any more individual mail service,” senior planner Jennifer Currin said.
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The change was not the town’s decision, but a 2013 decision from the USPS, which suspended individual home deliveries in subdivisions.
The USPS asked that towns and developers create those mail kiosks to cut down on the number of places postal workers have to stop.
Knightdale edited its UDO to make sure builders and developers had a clear understanding of what was and wasn’t acceptable, although senior planner Jeff Triezenberg said it was difficult to write too much detail into the UDO, because the USPS has been slow to give them explicit answers on what is acceptable.
Currin said they are working with some subdivisions already to find appropriate areas to build the kiosks, which must be sheltered, according to the town’s UDO amendment.
The “cluster mailbox unit shelters,” will have to consider short-term parking spaces as well. Taking cues from Cary, which has been working on switching to the cluster mailboxes, subdivisions would have to provide as many as eight parking spaces, depending on its size.
Working with town subdivisions
Some residential communities in the town, like townhomes at Widewater, already handle mail with central kiosks.
But council members became concerned with the new requirement when planning staff told them the upcoming 800-home subdivision Knightdale Station opted to consider having only one mail location.
Knightdale’s local postmaster told the town it could easily fit on the side of the planned YMCA in Knightdale Station, but the USPS is also open to providing mail centers in each phase of the project rather than one location for all 800 units.
The actual decision for Knightdale Station will come later, during site design, Triezenberg said. At that point, planning staff can help developers decide what would work best for the community.
And even though the town must comply with the USPS’s new requirements, Mayor Russell Killen made it clear he thought it would make create more problems than it will solve.
“(The USPS) has condemned part of the land to be high volume postal areas,” he said.
Other towns gearing up for change
And while Knightdale waits to see what Knightdale Station developers will decide to do, Wendell is already moving forward with some plans for Wendell Falls, a development five times bigger than Knightdale Station.
Wendell Planning Director David Bergmark said the development company is thinking about using smaller units that line sidewalks in the first three phases of the 4,000-home development.
Most of the space was already divvied up for other uses, so Bergmark said it would have been hard to find a lot to build a separate building. It is an option for later phases, he said.
While Zebulon hasn’t had too much discussion about the requirement, planning director Mark Hetrick said it could be a positive or negative change, depending on who’s being asked.
“I can see how some people will like it, mainly the postal carrier folks who it will make deliveries easier for,” Hetrick said. “I can see where citizens who like front-door delivery to their house and where security and access and convenience to them would come up.”
Neither Wendell or Zebulon has immediate plans to incorporate new requirements into their development guidelines.
The new rule would not impact existing developments, but it would impact ongoing projects which have not yet been built out.