The post office on Auto Drive in Clarksville will be closing its doors after Aug. 12 because the property owners decided not to renew its lease.
The possibility of opening another post office location in Clarksville is "under study," Yvette Singh, spokeswoman for the Baltimore district of the U.S. Postal Service, said Monday, Aug. 1.
Starting Aug. 13, she said, customers should go to the post office at 3375 Ellicott Center Drive in Ellicott City, which is where the employees from Clarksville will be moving.
"Mail delivery (in Clarksville) will take place as normal," she added.
News of the closure was first reported by River Hill resident Trevor Greene on his blog, HoCo Politico.
The closing is unrelated to the U.S. Postal Service's recently announced plan to close 41 post offices in Maryland. None of those closings are in Howard County.
The Postal Service leases the space on Auto Drive from property owners Walter and Ilene Veasel, of Ellicott City. The Veasels bought the property, which is slightly under one acre, from 108 Limited Partnership in 1996 for $142,000, according to Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation property records.
Ilene Veasel said there are "several reasons" she and her husband decided not to renew the lease.
"For one thing, we don't want to get tied down with a long lease again," she said.
The terms of the lease had been negotiated with the previous owner, Veasel said, and under that lease, which ends this month, "the rent decreased each period."
"We lost a lot of money," she said. "Someone was willing to pay us a higher price for a short-term lease."
An uncertain future
Veasel said she did not want another long-term lease because of uncertainty over the property's future.
The county sent a letter to the Veasels last month saying it may need to acquire part of their property to build a road to connect Auto Drive, Great Star Drive and Route 108.
"The County is proposing to establish a capital project for the Clarksville area that will help mitigate traffic congestion and provide enhanced access for the Gateway School site," the letter reads. "As an adjacent or nearby property owner, this project may impact your property."
The Planning Board is holding a public hearing on the proposed capital project Thursday, Aug. 4. After a Planning Board recommendation is issued, the proposal will go before the County Council for approval.
"We just thought there were so many questions with this road," Veasel said.
She said she is worried the county may try to take the land under eminent domain, the legal process under which a government entity can condemn land for public use.
"We're just kind of wondering what's going to happen," Veasel said. "They may not take any of our land at all. They may take it all from Win Kelly (Chevrolet)."
The county's proposal is to have the access road run right between the Chevrolet dealer and the Veasels' property. The project is estimated to cost $4.3 million.
Veasel declined to say what business would be moving into the post office location because terms have not been finalized.
Veasel said she hopes the post office can find another location in Clarksville.
"Clarksville has grown so much, I really believe they need another post office there," she said.
Customers at the Clarksville post office, interviewed Tuesday, Aug. 2, agreed.
"I think it's practical to have something," said Emil Bernhardt, of Ellicott City, who lives about 1.5 miles from the post office.
The Ellicott City post office to which customers are being directed, Bernhardt added, "is a nightmare to get in and out of, and it's a good drive from here."
According to Google Maps, the Ellicott City post office is about 10 miles from the Clarksville facility.
Though Ellicott City resident Sally Poling lives closer to the post office in Glenelg, she said she is saddened by the closing of the Clarksville facility.
"I do all my shopping in the Clarksville area, so it makes sense to come here," she said. "I love the ladies who work here … just very lovely people."
Highland resident Bill Dailey, who retired as the postmaster at the Highland post office in 2005, said he knows the people who work at the Clarksville post office. "We had a good rapport working back and forth with each other," he said.
Dailey suggested a local business could lease a small amount of space to the Postal Service to use for basic services. He also noted that the three-acre Highland site was built to take in other offices.
"It's a shame they're shutting down" the Clarksville post office, Dailey said. He blamed it on County Executive Ken Ulman's push to create road access to the Gateway School property, which he wants redeveloped as a mixed-use center.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's Ken's thing," he said.
In response, county spokesman Kevin Enright said in an e-mail: "The County had nothing to do with the decision to close this Post Office. That decision was made months ago, long before the County proposed this capital project."