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Q1: What is the new mailbox system?
A: a 13-mailbox combined unit called a “cluster box unit”, or CBU for short. There are to be a total of 26 units, with 13 units on the West side and 13 on the East side of our neighborhood. Click the images to view full size version.
Q2: How safe is the new cluster box unit?
A: They are very safe; their redesign has made them significantly safer than older versions of CBUs. The NDCBU type we have now on the West side of our community is old, discontinued, and no longer approved by USPS. Those older units can easily be broken into and are often seen on TV news about mail theft.
The proposed CBU is manufactured by the Florence Corporation, a company that has been in the design and manufacture of mailboxes since 1934. Safety features of the CBU can be seen on their website: https://www.florencemailboxes.com/vitaltm-1570-13. They include a heavy-duty 5-pin cylinder cam lock with spring-loaded cover on each unit and, for out-going mail, an interior aluminum comb to prevent theft or “mail fishing”.
Q3: What is the overall plan: the sequence of events for the installation of the new units?
A: There are two phases for the project work that is now underway.
First phase, USPS determines where the new units will be placed. To do so, the contractor places numbered stakes at 26 locations. It is a suggested location based on years of experience doing hundreds of installation projects.
Next step is to gather input from at least three groups, which in turn, may cause an adjustment to the staked locations: the utility locators (ex: can’t put the unit on top of telecom lines); the City of Hillsboro (ex: can’t put the unit too close to a corner to block visual clearance); and the mail carrier (ex: can’t put the unit where traffic flow is a problem for both delivery of the mail and pick up of the mail). Any comments by lot owners will also be given to the contractor who will share with the USPS.
- Bottom line: the USPS is the decision maker – suggestions can be submitted for consideration but it is the USPS who has the sole authority to dictate location.
- After a final, approved map of locations is issued by USPS, then every lot owner will be given it. It might be 2-3 months before USPS gives us a map.
Second phase begins after the USPS has determined the locations. In phase two, the contractor will proceed to install the new units. He has said that he ‘hand digs’ each space for the new concrete pads….by doing so, he and his crew are careful with owner’s yards. All new CBUs are installed before the old mailboxes are removed.
After the new boxes are in and ‘set up’ by the USPS (assigning a lot owner to a mailbox), then owners will receive 3 mailbox keys. It is the Board who hands out the keys. Each lot owner will be required to show ID and sign a form acknowledging that they received their keys. After everyone has their keys, then the contractor will give notice of old mailbox removal dates. This allows those on the East side time to take away their individual mailbox if they wish.
Q4: Why is the mailbox system being changed now?
A: Two reasons:
First: safety of mail delivery to the whole community. The Board acts on behalf of ALL, not just a few, such as a person who uses a PO box or lives out of area or who has a super-duper locking box. The Board has been properly warned about mail theft by the Hillsboro Police and told the type of mail system we currently have is weak and vulnerable.
Second, it has come to the board’s attention that our city regulations have changed since our neighborhood was developed in the early 1980s. The City of Hillsboro’s Public Works Department now has code regulations that stipulate, for safety reasons, that a mailbox stand located within 2′ of the street must use a breakaway-type of metal stand and the placement of CBUs must be set 5′ inward from the curb to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The following images depict a tubular breakaway mailbox stand as well as City of Hillsboro specifications for placement. Please click on the images to view a full-size version.
Put together, these points mean that a fix for the neighborhood is not an easy one. The West side cluster boxes are most definitely not as safe as the newer CBU models and are not ADA compliant. On the East side, when a wooden stand can no longer be repaired because it is too wobbly, at that time, per city code, the wooden stand cannot be rebuilt. Instead, the City mandates that it must be replaced with either a CBU or a tubular breakaway stand, and placed in a designated ADA location with a new separate concrete apron pad. But given the number of mailboxes, using tubular stands (which hold a max of 4 larger locking boxes) may require more mail carrier stops. The USPS will not approve more stops.
With these facts in mind, the Board has stepped up to figure out a solution and negotiate a good price for all homeowners.
What alternative was there for homeowners? DIY? Two key points to know:
- City of Hillsboro disapproves of handyman DIY concrete work in public right-of-way area; best practice: contractor is to be licensed, bonded, insured. All work is inspected and must be redone if not approved – paid by the owner!
- As you would anticipate, if mailbox replacements were done only one at a time, the cost per owner increases.
The cost that the board has negotiated for new installed 26 CBUs is $142.20 per lot owner. Compare this to:
- If just one cluster box/CBU on the West side needs replacing, the approximate cost per homeowner to replace it, in compliance with City code, would be: $2,500+ or at least $192 per lot owner. (source: Flake Enterprises, bidding contractor’s estimate)
- If one wooden 6- or 8-box stand on the East side needs replacing, the approximate cost per homeowner to replace it — following City specs — would be the cost for 2 tubular stands (only 3-4 larger locking boxes fit per stand), plus 2 concrete pads with aprons, plus contractor’s labor: estimated cost is more than CBU cost per lot owner. Additionally, since the stands are to be set 4′ apart, the USPS might not approve this approach if it equates to more mail carrier ‘stops’.
In addition to the costs, if an old cluster box or a wooden stand need replacing, the small group of affected homeowners will need to work together and complete the following in addition to paying the cost listed above.
- Check your homeowner’s insurance to see if your insurance covers any liability for a project like this;
- Identify contractors who are licensed, bonded and insured – City requires this for anyone working in the public right-of-way’ area (ex: sidewalk work).
- Get bids, do reference checks, get a contract approved by all owners;
- Collect money from other owners – the full amount upfront;
- Coordinate the work, check on performance;
- Get City permit and be available for inspection(s);
- Answer your co-owners’ questions and address their issues;
- Get USPS approval of your new mailboxes.
On the HFVOA.org website to see Exhibit 1 for a visual about the City spec’s. And Exhibit 2 & 5 for a tubular stand.
Q5: Won’t a CBU diminish the aesthetic look of our neighborhood?
A: No. This is the type of mailbox system that new neighborhoods with houses costing $690,000 to $900,000 are installing (Noyes development in North Bethany). And, immediately next to us is the Orenco Landing community, with houses costing $600,000 to $700,000; they have 2 Florence CBUs.
Q6: What about the importance of consistency to enhancing the aesthetics of our whole community?
A: One of the hallmarks of a high property valued community is the consistency in its overall design appearance. Mailboxes located on sidewalks are part of our very visible ‘look’. If one set of mailboxes are on a wooden stand, one set on a tubular stand, and one set being a CBU, what does that say to the observer? Messy? Overall consistency is good. That is the premise underlying the role of the Architectural Review Committee (ARC) – to assure that our community has a consistent overall look and feel. (Refer to the HFV’s CC&R governing document).
Q7: What about mailed packages?
A: Just as now, all parcels that do not fit into your mailbox will be placed at your front door by the mail carrier. (Source: Trish Pittman, USPS)
The new CBUs will have one parcel box per 13 individual mailboxes. Each mailbox is a large 5″ height x 12 13/16″ width x 15″ deep, allowing for lots of mail as well as small parcel boxes.
Q8: The City of Hillsboro requires the addition of a concrete apron to be added to the sidewalk for installation of new CBUs (or for any replacement stand); can that be put on MY property?
A: Yes, as explained by Doug Gresham, City of Hillsboro Public Works Department, here are the facts about “Public Right-of-Way Easements”:
- Each lot owner owns land from the center of the street to the surveyed back of their lot.
- In your land deed, it will say that there is a ‘public right-of-way easement’ across a portion of it. What does this mean and how much?
Per Doug Gresham, measuring from the center point of the street to the curb in front of your house, there is a 16-foot public right of way. Then from the curb inward from the street to your house, there is a 14-foot public right of way easement. Part of that is covered by a 5-foot sidewalk. In the rest of the easement space, utility companies can place their lines. Some are for your sole benefit; some are a continuation of neighborhood lines. These include gas, water, electricity, telephone, internet, City’s lighting, etc. The City is the government entity charged with managing the code for the use of the public right-of-way. It is in this public right-of-way space that the 2-foot concrete apron extension of the sidewalk — mandated by the City for ADA code compliance — would be placed.
One owner asked if there was going to be a property purchase for the concrete apron placement. The answer would be ‘no’, because — just like the sidewalks — the apron is to be on the portion of land already granted for a ‘public right-of-way’ easement.
Q9: What alternative approaches did the Board evaluate prior to the selection of the community all-in purchase, installation and use of a CBU mailbox system?
A: The Board’s research and evaluation was based upon 3 criteria for final choice:
- Did the approach best serve all in the community equally?
- Did the approach cost the least for the result of gaining greater safety and City code compliance?
- Did the approach add to the aesthetics and functionality of the community: look, consistency, ease of use?
The final logic was first and foremost: “We are one community”. We act as one connected neighborhood with one common problem. The answer became clear: by using CBUs and grouping our work together, we can achieve a better, more economical outcome.
- Lower cost – combining means fewer units, less concrete work, less expensive bid from contractor;
- More equitable among owners;
- Stops inertia –gets done before it MUST eventually be done;
- Supported by City and USPS;
- Less work for each homeowner;
- Solves a known problem that has been before Boards since at least 2002.
Q10: Is Betty Shannon’s statement correct that the USPS says our current mailboxes are ‘grandfathered in’?
A: Partially. Betty’s statement is a bit misleading.
- The USPS is correct if they are only referring to the current physical location of the boxes in the neighborhood
- The USPS cannot dictate where on a sidewalk the boxes are to be located–this is for the City of Hillsboro
- It is the HOA Board of Directors, not the City and not USPS, who can make a rule about mailbox design for the community
The old units continue not because they are ‘grandfathered’ but because their specifications were not replaced with a new rule in the 2015 amended CCRs. And yes, per Article 6 of the amended CC&Rs and Bylaws Article 7, the Board has the power to create new rules to effectively, efficiently, aesthetically, and properly govern our community. (Refer to our attorney’s letter to the community, sent to everyone.)
Q11: When the Board approved the new mailbox rule, were they changing the CC&Rs or the Bylaws? Is a membership vote required?
A: No, the addition of the mailbox rule does not change the governing documents adopted in 2015 (the HFV Amended and Restated Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions; the HFVOA Bylaws). And no vote by the membership is required by either Oregon law or by our governing documents. The creation of new rules or changes to implement the CC&Rs and Bylaws are to be approved by the Board. Read Article 7 of the Bylaws.
Mailboxes are an “improvement”, like your roof or fence. The mailbox rule is on par with the Architectural Review Committee (ARC) rules that were passed in 2016 (and distributed to each lot owner); this was done per CC&R Article 6. The mailbox rule can also be considered a rule on the use of the HFV property as cited in Bylaws Article 7.
Q12: What check is there on a Board’s issuing rules?
A: In the HFVOA Bylaws, Article 7.1, there is a check on the Board’s power. It states that 30% of the 329 lot owners in Hawthorn Farm Village may rescind a rule passed by the Board. This means that if a petition to repeal a specific rule is signed by 99 lot owners (with one vote per lot) then the rule will be voided. This is a good check and balance mechanism.
Q13: After the CBUs are installed, who is responsible for them? Who owns them?
A: The owner of a mailbox (whether standing by itself or in a cluster) is not the homeowners association. It is the lot owners who are assigned to the boxes who are responsible.
This responsibility includes periodic maintenance (cleaning). This also includes cleaning off graffiti; City code says the owner must remove it. Good news: Doug Gresham (City Public Works) has the name of the product the City uses to wipe graffiti off their stop signs.
Q14: What will happen to the old mailboxes?
A: For the old CBUs on the West side, they will be removed by the contractor, then properly disposed. For the individually owned mailboxes on the East side, each lot owner will be notified in advance of when the old stands are to be removed. Plenty of time will be given to each to choose what they want to do: keep their mailbox (and perhaps resell it on Craig’s List or give it away or creatively repurpose it) or let it be properly disposed.
Q15: Will the walk to the new Cluster Box Units be longer?
A: Maybe so for some. But, for the East side neighbors, good news: no longer do you stand in the street to collect your mail. For the West side neighbors, the box distance might be just about the same walking distance as you have now.
Research done for this project
- Conversations with Doug Gresham, City of Hillsboro Public Works Department.
- Conversations with USPS Postmaster–Hillsboro and Assistants, throughout 2017.
- Conversations with City of Hillsboro Police.
- Research meeting by Kenny Hettrich and Sue Woodson.
- Presentation to Board – May 23, 2017.
- Conversation with 3 bidding firms – in 2015, 2016 and most notably in 2017.
- Their presentations at HFV Town Hall – December 11, 2016.
- Request for proposal sent to and bids received from 3 firms.
- Subsequent numerous conversations to get related or additional information.
- Interviewed many references for feedback on performance.
- Conversations with Florence Corporation for points about their products.