Beverly Hills 21029; Howard: Some with Columbia ZIP want Clarksville's for prestige, but that isn't postmaster's concern.


WHAT'S THE difference between 21029 and 21044? A soupcon of prestige? A pile of money? Maybe both.

We're talking ZIP code envy here, and it's more than a hill of beans if your $400,000 house is in 21044 instead of 21029.

Residents of Pointers Overlook, a development of expensive homes between Columbia and Clarksville, say the difference approaches life-and-death proportions: Mail is misdirected. Clients get lost on their way to the dentist. The police can't find you.

And something else: Those expensive houses aren't as valuable with a Columbia postal address as with a Clarksville one. One study finds the average Clarksville house goes for twice as much as the Columbia average.

This problem began when a developer, Ryan Homes, said its Pointers Overlook houses were in Clarksville. Homebuyers apparently did not verify that assertion. At settlement, the truth came out. The address was Columbia, not exactly shabby, but not what these buyers thought they were getting.

Ryan later made cash settlements of undisclosed amounts.

Not everyone was compensated, however, and the hurt apparently lingers even for those who were.

Pointers Overlook homeowners now beg the U.S. Postal Service to move them from Columbia's ZIP (21044) to Clarksville's (21029).

Movements of this sort are sustained by the notion that somewhere leverage can be found to achieve the desired result, but authoritative sources say not even an act of Congress would suffice.

With so many homeowners stranded somewhere outside the Clarksvilles of the world, the Postal Service would be awash in change requests after the first approval. Prudently, it strives to avoid a game of musical zips in which the music comes from cash registers.

Pub Date: 10/07/99

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