By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN In the time since Nick Haggenmiller has been city administrator, nearly a dozen residents have asked him why they are not allowed to have mailboxes in front of their homes, he told the Howard Lake City Council during Tuesday’s meeting.
Howard Lake Postmaster Lisa Carlson has also had numerous residents asking her about home delivery service for mail.
Haggenmiller brought the matter before the council, not only to make them aware of the number of residents questioning why mailboxes are not allowed, but to also be able to give residents a concise answer as to why.
The council reviewed the current ordinance, as well as the reasons why the ordinance was put into effect.
Although the council did not give Haggenmiller a concise answer at this time, it will continue to discuss the mailbox issue during upcoming meetings, he noted.
Current mailbox ordinance
The current mailbox ordinance, amended in 1998, 2007, and 2010, does not allow residents to install a mailbox for home delivery of mail within the city’s right-of-way, which extends approximately 10 to 15 feet from the curb side.
However, when the amended ordinance was passed in 1998, residents who already had mailboxes were covered by a grandfather clause, but those mailboxes would have to be removed upon sale of the properties.
A few mailboxes can still be seen along Sixth Street (Wright County Road 6), because those homes have not chnaged owners since 1998, when the ordinance was amended.
The ordinance also allowed residents along Imhoff Avenue North and those east of Mallard Pass Lake to have mailboxes.
When amended in 2007 and 2010, new subdivisions, such as Lake Ridge, Orchard Terrace, and Dutch Lake Woods, were also allowed to have mailboxes.
It was noted during the discussion that this was allowed due to lack of space in the post office for more post office boxes.
All mailboxes in the subdivisions had to be clustered, and constructed in conformance with postal and city regulations.
Locations of the clustered mailboxes also had to be approved by the city and the post office, according to ordinance.
The ordinance also allowed the Good Samaritan Society - Howard Lake to be exempt from the ordinance due to the need for Saturday delivery of mail.
Those with a physical disability were also exempt, but had to apply for a special permit to erect a mailbox at their property.
Considerations for ordinance changes
Although the post office will do whatever the city wants in terms of home delivery of mail, it is not in favor of individual mailboxes, according to Carlson.
However, if individual mailboxes were approved, she recommended the city establish strict design standards to try to prevent damage from snowplows during snow removal.
Allowing mailboxes for the city’s residents would not necessarily be more convenient, Carlson noted.
Residents would be responsible for shoveling snow from around the mailbox to allow the mail carrier access, since snowplows will not be able to get close enough without damaging the mailboxes.
Access for the mail carrier should also be taken into consideration. If a vehicle is parked in front of a mailbox, the mail carrier is not required to get out of the vehicle to deliver the mail, and a resident may miss a day of delivery.
If the ordinance were changed, the post office recommends clustering mailboxes, similar to what is currently done in the various subdivisions, Carlson told the council.
It also strongly recommends locked boxes for the delivery of mail, especially with all the identity theft which takes place, Carlson said.
This would require the city, or another entity, to purchase the mailboxes and manage issuing individual boxes and keys to residents, as well as maintaining the mailboxes.
Also, the post office sets up the routes, and has final say as to where mailboxes are placed. If individual boxes were allowed, the mail carrier would only travel down one side of the street.
If cluster boxes were approved, the mail route would typically only go north and south or east and west, and some residents would have to walk to the corner to receive their mail.