2014, September 23 | Tuesday 12:03 pm

by Peter Samuel

uspsFrederick’s downtown historic district Design Guidelines even have regulations on permitted residential mail boxes. They must run vertically to distinguish us urban sophisticates from the rural rubes outside in the county. The rubes, we’re informed in the Guidelines, generally have a horizontal style of mail box.

The laid-back rural style of mailbox is “generally not appropriate in the Historic District” our City’s official historicists instruct.rural

See this important stuff in Chapter 7 Guidelines for Building Accessories and Signs, N Miscellaneous Wall Features, 4., p115.

But that’s not all.

Chapter 8, Guidelines for Landscapes and Streetscapes, L. Street Furniture, 7. Commercial mail boxes p130 has another shot at the threat of inappropriate mail boxes. It says that mail boxes other than ones placed by the US Postal Service cannot be located where they are visible from public rights-of-way.

This section instructs: “Such mail boxes should be placed inside buildings.”

Trouble is when you have have townhouses there’s no lobby to allow them to be placed “inside” of.

Case HPC14-745 coming before the Commission September 25 concerns the appropriate delivery mode for mail at the Maxwell Square townhouses on East 5th Street and an application by Brian Bradfield an agent for townhouse developer Comstock.

clusterbox2In the application and a subject of this week’s public hearing he’s asking for HPC permission to install two free-standing cluster mail boxes, one in the alley immediately south of East 5th St, the other just off the development’s southern alley between two blocks of six townhouses planned for future construction.

City staff report to the Historic Preservation Commission in HPC14-745 that the Historic District Design Guidelines call for individual mailboxes of the vertical urban style and that the cluster box units proposed by the developer are “not an appropriate form for this urban historic district.”

Bradfield points out however that these cluster boxes are now required by the US Postal Service at new multi-unit housing developments. Such clustering of the mail of course increases the efficiency of mail deliveries, and helps the USPS contain its burgeoning billions of $s of annual losses.

In their report on HPC14-745 City staff reluctantly agree that the Historic Commission will have to approve the cluster boxes, despite the Guidelines. Otherwise the residents of Maxwell Square wouldn’t, we guess, get their mail delivered.

The staff report reassures the Commission that the “inappropriate” units will be installed behind and between new buildings and “not directly on a historic streetscape.”

Already in use

Cluster mail box installations are already in use in the historic district contrary to the Guidelines in the North Pointe Nexus development around West 6th and Lord Nickens Streets.

This is another case of the historic design guidelines being reduced to a silly nuisance – incapable of enforcement by the nannies of historic preservation. Like the regulations against asphalt shingle roofing, pressure treated lumber, wood composite materials, fiber cement siding, power tools for masonry etc etc.

But fusspots take heart.

The City’s nannies are still holding the line against the invasion from the countryside of those “inappropriate” horizontal mail boxes. For now anyway.

- editor 2014-09-23


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