Cave Creek may revisit ZIP Code issue

By Linda Bentley | March 31, 2010

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From coast to coast, townís ZIP Code gives very wrong impression
CAVE CREEK – On March 22, a New York Times story, “Microcosm of housing crisis on an Arizona street,” which carried a CAVE CREEK, Ariz. dateline, stated, “The uncertain line between hope and despair divides this exurb of Phoenix, where the trim stucco houses used to sell so briskly.

“It winds around the … pebbled yards of East Montgomery Road like a slow-burning fuse.”
The article goes on to say, “Two in five homeowners in this sprawling development 30 miles northeast of Phoenix are underwater on their mortgages.”

Montgomery Road in the Tatum Ranch community to which the article refers is not in the town of Cave Creek, 30 miles northeast of Phoenix. It is, in fact, in Phoenix.

The only thing sprawling in Cave Creek is its open space, as it has no sprawling subdivisions containing cookie cutter homes like those prevalent in Phoenix.

In fact, the 3,000 or so homes that make up just the Tatum Ranch subdivision in Phoenix exceeds the total number of dwelling units in all of Cave Creek, which is estimated at around 2,500.

While Cave Creek has a population of approximately 5,900, you wouldn’t know it looking up its ZIP Code 85331 online.

mayor vincent provides “the skinny on: 85331 (Cave Creek, AZ),” citing a population of 23,803, density of 313.78 people per square mile and 9,995 housing units.

On March 24, Cave Creek Mayor Vincent Francia sent an e-mail to Louise Story, who authored the New York Times article, requesting she correct the dateline of her article.

Francia wrote, “The article profiles four families who live on Montgomery Road. The road is actually located in a community south of Cave Creek, called Tatum Ranch, and is in the jurisdiction of Phoenix, not Cave Creek. Tatum Ranch residents are our neighbors, good neighbors I might add, but they in fact are not citizens of Cave Creek. What Cave Creek and Tatum Ranch do share is a common ZIP Code – 85331. A corrections request as to your dateline would be appreciated by the citizens of Cave Creek.”

New York Times Business Desk Head Cass Peterson responded the following day and said, “While I understand your position that the dateline was incorrect on the basis of what governmental entity claims jurisdiction over the dwellings, I cannot agree that a correction is warranted. There seems to be no question that the residents use Cave Creek, Ariz., as their official address. Tatum Ranch appears to be a subdivision designation rather than an incorporated community or official mailing address.

“If I search the U.S. Postal Service's site for Tatum Ranch, AZ, I am told no such place exists. If I search for cities within the ZIP Code 85331, I am given only Cave Creek, AZ.
“These anomalies are pretty common. I live in Flanders, N.J. My mother-in-law lives a mile away in Budd Lake, N.J. But we both pay taxes to Mount Olive Township, N.J. Nonetheless, she's a resident of Budd Lake and I'm a resident of Flanders. Governmental jurisdiction is not the only factor in defining the place one calls home.

“Thanks again for writing, and for reading The Times.”

A couple of years ago, former Councilwoman Kim Brennan contacted Cave Creek Postmaster Ron Rodriguez about the possibility of the town of Cave Creek getting its own ZIP Code to alleviate confusion and for the town to have an identity based on its ideologies rather than an overwhelming majority contrasting the same.

ZIP stands for Zone Improvement Plan.

Rodriguez subsequently addressed council on the issue and, much like Peterson’s response to Francia, responded by saying it wasn’t feasible to request a new post office until the population reached at least 10,000. The issue was dropped.

However, in June 2006, Congressional Research Service (CRS) prepared a report for Congress titled, “Changing Postal Zip Code Boundaries,” addressing exactly this issue.

The report’s summary stated, “Ever since the ZIP Code system for identifying address locations was devised in the 1960s, some citizens have wanted to change the ZIP Code to which their addresses are assigned. Because ZIP Codes are often not aligned with municipal boundaries, millions of Americans have mailing addresses in neighboring jurisdictions. This can cause higher insurance rates, confusion in voter registration, misdirected property and sales tax revenues for municipalities, and property value effects. Some communities that lack a delivery post office complain that the need to use mailing addresses of adjacent areas robs them of a community identity.”

Because the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) long resisted changing ZIP Codes for any reason other than improving efficiency of delivery, a frustrated citizenry turned to their members of Congress for help.

A House subcommittee heard testimony from members, city officials and the Government Accountability Office that “USPS routinely denied local requests for adjusting ZIP Code boundaries in a peremptory manner.”

USPS has since developed a “ZIP Code Boundary Review Process,” which claims “every reasonable effort” to consider and, if possible, accommodate municipal requests to modify the last lines of an acceptable address and/or ZIP Code boundaries.

The CRS report states, “One accommodation that can often be made is to allow the alternative use of more than one city name in the last line of the address, while retaining the ZIP Code number of the delivery post office. This can help with community identity problems, though not with problems such as insurance rates or tax remittances being directed by ZIP Code.”

It also states: “Constituents should be made aware that simply having approached a local postmaster and having been told that an adjustment would be disruptive and impractical is not part of the process.”

In December of last year, the city of Litchfield Park passed a resolution (09-297) requesting USPS to initiate its ZIP Code Boundary Review Process to change the existing 85340 ZIP Code to correspond to the area within the actual city limits, citing the city contains only 3.3 square miles and a population of 5,093, while the 85340 ZIP Code includes 40.8 square miles with a population of over 21,000.

The Litchfield Park City Council says the ZIP Code’s boundaries have caused confusion of the responsible party for basic services such as law enforcement, fire protection, road repair, utility services and building permits; loss of community identity; home/auto insurance rates determined by ZIP Code rather than by city boundaries; and crime statistics and school progress reports which do not distinguish between city and other areas.

may 1963 zip code posterMay 1963 mailing to introduce ZIP Codes.