- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2005

First came Beverly Hills 90210, and now Cheverly.

Some residents in the Prince George’s County town want a life beyond the shadow of the bigger Hyattsville and think getting their own ZIP code is a good start.

“The town’s identity is being eroded,” Micha Watson, a Town Council member and chairman of the Zip Code Task Force, said yesterday. “A lot of citizens feel that Cheverly has done a good job of protecting its identity over the years and keeping its unique style of living.”

To be sure, the situation in Cheverly is hardly the first story about a community’s connection to a 5-digit ZIP code.

In 1990, the Fox TV network debuted a prime-time series titled “Beverly Hills 90210” that was primarily based on the privileged lives of young adults living in Southern California.

About 10 years ago, the Middleburg, Va., post office became overwhelmed with requests for post office boxes, mostly from nonresidents wanting a more tony ZIP code. And one of this summer’s hottest fashion accessories are designer tote bags imprinted with ZIP codes from such exclusive places as Southampton, N.Y., and Palm Beach, Fla., according to the New York Times.

Beyond the cachet of having one’s own ZIP code, the Cheverly residents say the change would improve mail service. They also say the change would lower auto insurance rates because insurers lump them into Hyattsville, where there are more accidents and more auto thefts.

Letters and parcels addressed to Cheverly residents now go through Hyattsville, home base for many of the region’s letter carriers and where the U.S. Postal Service has a large sorting facility, said Deborah Yackley, a regional spokeswoman for the agency.

She said the postal service could issue a new ZIP code to an existing community, but only if such a change improves service.

“Basically ZIP codes were designed for the purpose of sorting and delivering mail,” Miss Yackley said. “They were established for the convenience of the postal service. If someone wants a ZIP code, they can request it. … But it has to be something that will increase the efficiency of the postal service.”

Mr. Watson said the task force was created to gather complaints and lobby for the change.

“After collecting a number of concerns, then we’ll take a more concrete approach to dealing with the postal service,” he said.

Task force members plan to meet with the postal service later this year.

However, Miss Yackley made clear that residents will have to present a strong case.

“ZIP codes have become identification marks and identity marks … established just for the United States Postal Service and just for that purpose,” she said.

Over the past year, the postal service has issued only two new codes in the area — one in Annapolis and another in Northern Virginia. The postal service each year issues 30 to 40 new codes across the country.

“Very many cities have other facilities that handle their mail, and very many communities don’t have their own ZIP codes,” Miss Yackley said. “Every city doesn’t have it’s own ZIP code.”

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