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Loch Raven Village is deeply divided these days — not by controversy, but by ZIP code.

East Loch Raven Village is 21234. The western part of the community is 21286.

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Many years ago, when all of Loch Raven Village was part of Towson, the community had only one ZIP code, 21204. But at some point, 21204 got too big and the Postal Service split the community at Loch Raven Boulevard, and gave businesses to the west a 21286 ZIP code and those to the east a Parkville ZIP code of 21234. The 21204 ZIP code now covers west Towson.

That is wreaking havoc on home values and car insurance rates, partly because 21234 includes Baltimore City, where crime rates are higher. And residents say real estate websites often incorrectly identify what schools children would go to, based on what ZIP code they live in.

Now, the United States Postal Service is considering a petition signed by more than the required 50 percent of affected east side residents, asking that they become part of 21286, too.

Letters of support were written last October by State Del. John Cluster, County Councilman David Marks, U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Jason Garber, president of Associates of Loch Raven Village Inc., a homeowners association for the community of 1,472 houses.

The letter by Garber, an attorney, asked Kristin Seaver, vice president for area operations in the Postal Service's Capitol Metro Area, to "unite our community under the 21286 ZIP code, as requested in a Petition for Boundary Adjustment that was submitted by residents of Loch Raven Village."

A petition for the boundary adjustment was actually signed by 64 percent of residents who would be affected, said Bitten Norman, one of the residents who has taken the lead in the effort.

Norman said postal officials now are doing a feasibility study and a survey to decide whether to make the entire community 21286.

Postal Service spokeswoman Freda Sauter said in an email May 26 that the Baltimore district manager would review the request and that Associates of Loch Raven Village would be notified of any decision to change the ZIP code boundaries. Sauter said she did not have a time frame for a decision and called the request "a major undertaking" because it would affect more than 1,400 houses.

However, Garber said only 400 to 500 houses on the east side, in 21234, would be affected.

Sauter also said in her email that money and efficiency would be factors in the decision.

"While community identity and local boundaries are a consideration when we first establish a new ZIP code, once established, our primary consideration must be on the long-range economic effects that realignment would have on the daily operations of our postal network," she wrote.

The issue has roiled the quiet community of houses, apartments and businesses, which Garber said was built in the late 1940s and early 1950s as one of the first post-World War II planned communities in the nation.

The neighborhood was designed "to foster a cohesive community and it has remained true to the developer's intent," Garber states in his letter.

But now, said Norman, "You kind of feel like one of those Picasso paintings, where the face is split down the middle. We're split in so many ways."

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For example, Loch Raven Village Apartments is 21286, but streets behind the building, including Glen Keith Boulevard, Edgewood Avenue and Aberdeen Road, are 21234, said leasing agent Jessica Bell. She said that causes confusion sometimes when different mail carriers come in to pick up outgoing mail.

"The east side (residents) felt like they were being shoved aside and separated from the rest of Loch Raven Village," said longtime real estate agent Leslea Knauff.

Compounding the identity crisis is that east-siders make up only 35 percent of the overall community, compared to 65 percent on the west side, according to a ZIP code boundary map.

The east side is bounded on the north by Aberdeen Road; on the south by the back side of the CVS Pharmacy shopping center on Taylor Avenue; on the east by an alley off Edgewood Road; and on the west by Loch Raven Boulevard, Norman said.

Knauff said that when she pulls up real estate listings in 21234 near Parkville, houses on the east side of Loch Raven Village are lumped in with 21234, a huge ZIP code area that extends from Baltimore County as far away as Harford Road in Baltimore City. That also means that east side residents have to go to a post office farther away to pick up certified mail, rather than a post office much close to their homes.

"It's just ridiculous," she said.

And, Knauff said, car insurance for some residents skyrockets because insurance carriers think they live in the city.

"The 21234 ZIP code imposes particular burdens upon Village residents that live in the 21234 ZIP code, specifically, higher insurance rates and lower property values when compared to the Village residents in 21286," Garber wrote in his letter.

In addition to disparities in property values and insurance rates, some real estate websites incorrectly identify the schools that serve the 21234 residents of Loch Raven Village because of the ZIP code, Garber wrote.

"This has not only had an impact on neighborhood identity, but has also affected property values and insurance rates," Marks wrote in his letter to the Postal Service's Seaver. "I believe it is time to reunify Loch Raven Village within the 212186 ZIP code."

"These actions have resulted in confusion and serve as a dividing factor for Loch Raven Village and its business neighbors," wrote Ruppersberger. "Loch Raven Village is a longstanding, traditional community that takes great pride in its identity."

Ruppersbeger said he supports reunification under 21286, "to maintain the integrity and cohesion of this tight-knit comunity."

"It got to the point where we were being misidentified as two separate communities." Norman said. "It was becoming more and more of a problem being in 21234 and people not realizing that we were part of Loch Raven Village. It was becoming a larger and larger division in the neighborhood."

Garber said he hopes for a decison that is efficient for the Postal Service and that makes the community whole again.

"We were intended to be one community," he said.

But Sauter was making no promises.

"It takes a lot to change a ZIP code," she said.

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