CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — A senior living community in Chesterfield is in a battle for curbside delivery.
Residents in the Kenbrook neighborhood of Harper’s Mill say they weren’t told until after moved in that there were no mailboxes. Instead, the 55+ community has what’s called a cluster box unit or CBU. Homeowner Lee Pareti said it’s a struggle for many people to get to the box.
“There is a lot of need, there is a lot of disabilities,” Pareti said.
She says for many, it’s a long walk in the cold and in the elements to and from the cluster box. Most of the residents are 65 and older, some with mobility and health issues. Alan Pollack has multiple sclerosis.
“This is as far as I can get, it’s halfway there,” he said sitting in his next-door neighbor’s home.
The walk from his home to the cluster box is about the length of two football fields.
“There’s no way I can get to a mailbox,” Pollack said.
Cluster box units have been the standard mode of delivery for most new home communities for approximately 15 years, offer numerous advantages to customers and the Postal Service as outlined in the Developer’s Guide for Centralized Delivery.
For example, CBUs offer a safe and secure option for customers who do not retrieve their mail on a daily basis when combined with Informed Delivery. Informed Delivery is a postal feature that allows registered residential users to view digital images of their incoming mail.
Neighbors like Pareti and Kevan Key have formed a mailbox committee and are fighting for mailboxes.
“A senior community such as ours common sense would dictate that we should have mailboxes here,” Key said.
At one point 10 of the 43 homes in the neighborhood had mailboxes, but then they were suddenly pulled out — Key’s mailbox was one of them.
“It’s my understanding that once mailboxes are established in a community they can’t come back and take those but they did,” he said.
Residents were later told that the builder never consulted with the U.S. Postal Service for mailboxes. However, if you turn a corner, another section of the neighborhood has mailboxes including the development’s model home.
Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors member Kevin Carroll met with the residents and calls the situation unfair and inconsistent.
The residents have reached out to the local postmaster and the US Postal Service for help, and even filed for a waiver under the “hardship cases” code of the USPS regulations. In total, 11 residents and their doctors sent letters in support.
“Every single one of them received a denial letter from USPS,” Pareti said.
The formal letter response from USPS to residents said consultation for mailboxes should happen before to or during construction. The letter also mentioned a mandate to provide universal service to the nation at affordable prices and stated a “centralized delivery service is unquestionably the most efficient.”
“To tell a senior community with a legitimate need that they can’t receive curbside mail delivery, that’s upsetting,” Peareti said.
8News reached out to Sen. Mark Warner, and his office said they plan to contact the residents. We also contacted Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger. Her spokesperson gave the following statement:
Rep. Spanberger’s team has been in direct communication with Chesterfield County residents about this specific issue — and they have also worked to connect community members with U.S. Postal Service officials to discuss ongoing mailbox and delivery challenges. While we cannot discuss specific cases without explicit permission, we can confirm that Rep. Spanberger is closely following the hardship request issue in the Harpers Mill area and how it is impacting residents who might have mobility issues. She is hopeful that the U.S. Postal Service and its dedicated employees will be able to maintain reliable and affordable mail and delivery services for everyone in the Kenbrook community. Additionally, she is reminding anyone in Central Virginia that if they have an issue with the U.S. Postal Service — or any other federal agency, for that matter — they can reach out directly to Rep. Spanberger’s Henrico, Spotsylvania, or Washington, D.C. offices for assistance.”
8News also reached out to USPS with questions, but the organization declined our request for an interview. In a response they said:
“It has long been the policy for homeowners or developers to request and receive advanced approval of the delivery location and mode of delivery from the local Postmaster or district designee. We actively notify city and/or county planning agencies to provide information to developers and other interested parties at the earliest possible opportunity in the building process. Information to establish mail delivery is readily available from the local Postmaster or at about.usps.com.”
In this situation, the developer put up curbside mailboxes without postal approval. CBUs are required in this neighborhood. The Postal Service has always considered changes to mode of delivery for individual customers who qualify for a hardship, which are considered on a case-by-case basis.
The customers in this neighborhood who requested a hardship case did not meet the criteria, which takes into account medical documentation, whether another family member lives at or visits the residence and accessibility to the CBU among other factors.
Still Pareti and Key have questions. If CBU’s have been a standard mode of delivery for most new home communities, they wonder why they found a dozen other new communities in chesterfield getting mailboxes.
“If anybody should be grandfathered in, it would be a senior community,” Key said.