You Got Mail ... Illegally - Sparta to enforce mailbox construction laws

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:16

    Sparta-Sparta officials have decided to look the other way when it comes to the illegal mail boxes that have sprung up around town. However, they also decided to come down on homeowners in order to stop the practice. Over the past three years, increasing numbers of Sparta residents have built large structures of brick or stone to house the mailboxes in front of their homes. The structures are considered illegal by the township because they present a hazard to drivers. Because of United States Postal Service regulations, mailboxes are installed on the right of way of a road. However, boxes, as well as traffic signs are constructed to easily break apart when hit by an automobile as a way to minimize the danger to the driver. Over the summer, the township attorney and manager advised the council of a new trend among homeowners to build heavy structures to house mailboxes. At the time, the council determined that all of these mailboxes would need to be until they sell the home. However, residents who contacted the zoning board and were declined a permit, but who built the pillars anyway, will still be forced to take their mailboxes down. According to Township Planner David Troast, the planning board has never approved the construction of such mailboxes. Troast explained that because of the legal issues involved with having the structures on the side of the road, residents keeping their pillar style mailboxes will have to sign a legal document accepting any liability arising from an accident involving their structure. In addition, if one of the structures is hit by a plow, the homeowner would be responsible to pay for repairs to the township property. The council made clear that future building of similar pillar style mailboxes will be banned. New structures will be removed at the homeowner's expense. "We have a database of mailbox locations that can be included in this (legislation)," said Troast, adding that it would be easy for township officials to spot a newly constructed mailbox. Township residents will be notified of the council's latest decision via township newsletter and by letters. On Tuesday, in a phone interview, Sparta Township Manager Henry Underhill denied that a final decision had been made, explaining that the township attorney was still researching the legality of the council's decision.dismantled and removed in order to comply with the law. However, at the Sept. 14 council meeting, the governing body opted to grant a "grandfather clause" for "illegal" mailboxes already built. Residents who have already built these pillar style mailboxes without contacting the Sparta zoning board for permission will be allowed to keep their structure