Iowa City officials adapt to postal service change

BY DANIEL SEIDL | MARCH 05, 2014 5:00 AM

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The City Council unanimously adopted an ordinance that will amend the city code to remove distance limits on mailbox clusters and add ordinances to regulate the construction and placement of these structures.

Mayor Matt Hayek said the main reason for this ordinance is because of changing policies by the U.S. Postal Service.

“We don’t have a choice; we have to conform to this,” he said. “The city’s ordinance change is a reaction to a decision by the U.S. Postal Service to cut back service.”

This cutback to service that Hayek refers to is a decision by the Postal Service to no longer support individual mailboxes in new subdivisions and instead move to clustered mailboxes.

Councilor Jim Throgmorton said that this change may signal a more significant shift from the service in the future.

“Implied signals are that they might do it for all neighborhoods,” he said. “If they change it, we here in Iowa City won’t be able to stop them.”

The main purpose behind this change by the Postal Service is probably to make the service more efficient, Councilor Kingsley Botchway said.

“I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I do understand it from an efficiency standpoint,” he said. “The Postal Service has been going through a dire couple of years.”

Hayek agreed that the change aimed to improve the financial situation of the service, though it may not be enough to entirely counteract the move away from printed mail.

“The system is not sustainable; habits have changed,” he said. “People rely on email, people send fewer letters. The assumptions on which the Postal Service was based for many decades have shifted.”

Hayek said the ordinance aims to make the clustered mailboxes more attractive and more convenient for residents. While the city can’t stop the clustered mailboxes from moving into new neighborhoods, the councilors are trying to lessen the impact, he said.

“We’ll work with developers to locate the clustered mailboxes in the best possible location with the best possible look,” he said.

The ordinance will add two sections to the code that will regulate the placement and construction of the clusters.

The first section states that the clusters must be located conveniently for residents. The clusters would have to be located in an outlot maintained by the homeowners association of each neighborhood. These outlots must not force residents to cross heavily trafficked streets, and driveways would not be allowed within 12 feet of them.

The ordinance states that the mailbox clusters must be located on a concrete pad built to city specifications. A 5-foot-wide concrete sidewalk would lead up to the clustered mailboxes.

The developer would cover installation costs for the structures, with maintenance costs covered by either the homeowners association or the Postal Service.

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