Postal Service, TRPA butt heads |

Postal Service, TRPA butt heads

by Andy Bourelle

Coming soon: the government championship of Lake Tahoe.

The federal government may be stronger, but the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is on its own turf.

The U.S. Postal Service may soon be butting heads with TRPA over whether it has to follow some of the bistate regulatory authority’s rules.

The Postal Service has been working nearly a year on developing a master plan for the Tahoe Basin. Bob MacGill, a real estate specialist for the Postal Service’s western region, says the federal agency has had trouble working with TRPA and is looking into whether it can legally break TRPA rules.

“It’s not a process of getting an exemption (to TRPA’s rules),” MacGill said. “We have a Constitutional responsibility to deliver mail. With that responsibility comes federal supremacy. We’re asking our legal counsel to review whether we have to comply with TRPA’s requirements.”

At issue, MacGill said, is that TRPA is trying to limit the number of boxes the various Tahoe post offices can have.

“I think they believe by eliminating a number of boxes, they will in some way control vehicle miles traveled,” MacGill said. “The problem comes about when we limit boxes, and (people) can’t get any more, private organizations can move into the area and start supplying boxes. … I understand their position on this, but it gets into Constitutional law and what our mandate is as an agency, or a quasi-governmental agency. We want to provide the best possible customer service, mail service in the area.

“When some of these regulations serve as limits to the number of boxes, that hampers our objective to provide good customer service.”

TRPA officials have long wanted the Postal Service to provide more home delivery at Tahoe. The agency’s concern is that when most residents have boxes, that creates more driving to the post office, increasing what TRPA calls vehicle miles traveled and therefore increasing air pollution and traffic congestion.

“When we have to approve a permit, we look at the traffic impacts. We also have a policy in regards to our air-quality plan, and probably elsewhere in our ordinances, that we are committed to home mail delivery,” said Pam Drum, TRPA spokeswoman. “Expanding the number of boxes is not consistent with our policies and objectives.”

A survey conducted last year of 16,000 randomly selected Tahoe residents revealed about 57 percent of those polled wanted home mail delivery.

Only South Lake Tahoe and Incline Village offer home delivery now. Residents in the rest of the communities in the basin must go to their nearest post offices to get their mail from boxes.

The Postal Service, which operates 12 offices and several postal stations in the basin, plans to upgrade many facilities over the next several years. The federal agency’s officials want the master plan to serve as a blueprint for the changes.

MacGill estimated 80 percent of the plan is completed. The Postal Service is supposed to present the plan to TRPA within a few months.

MacGill said the Postal Service also is trying to find out whether it can get out of complying with TRPA’s coverage rules for a proposed Incline Village Post Office. TRPA regulates how much ground coverage a property can take up, and it would save the Postal Service $230,000 to get around that rule.

Drum, however, said there is no way the federal agency can avoid obeying those rules. There is a special consideration in TRPA’s coverage rules for groups such as the Postal Service that provide a public service.

However, Drum said the federal agency “is not exempt from coverage rules.”

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