Ulman offers rent-free land to keep a post office in Clarksville

In a move to keep a post office in Clarksville, County Executive Ken Ulman has offered to let the U.S. Postal Service lease the former Gateway School site rent-free for at least two years.

The Clarksville post office at 12411 Auto Drive closed its doors Friday, Aug. 12, because the property owners decided not to renew its lease. It had been at that location for 17 years, and its closing upset many area residents.

"I've been sort of surprised that the post office didn't have a contingency lined up for another space," Ulman said. "I believe it's very important that the post office continues to serve Clarksville."

The county owns the 7.8-acre parcel where the Gateway School once stood in Clarksville, located at 12240 Clarksville Pike, next to Kendall Hardware and across from the River Hill Village Center.

The school building was demolished to make way for a mixed-use development. The county selected GreenStone Ventures to develop the property, but terminated the agreement last month because of differences over access to the site.

Now, the Ulman administration is proposing a $4.3 million road project that will provide access to the site and improve the transportation network in that area on the north side of Route 108.

With the development of the property delayed, Ulman said he saw an opportunity for the county to offer a "low-cost," temporary solution for the postal service to continue operating in Clarksville.

"We were just throwing out ideas, and we got this piece of property that even in a best case scenario won't be built upon for another year and a half, two years," he said. "It's just sitting there. If they think it helps solve their challenges, then we're happy to help."

Though the parcel is vacant, it has a paved parking lot and access to utilities, Ulman said.

"The post office has other locations where they have more temporary sites like trailers," he said.

Ulman said his staff contacted the postal service and sent his offer and now "the ball's in their court."

Amanda Freeman, the postal service's real estate specialist for the Baltimore area, said she received the proposal letter Monday, Aug. 15 and sent it to the service's planning department.

"We have not had a chance to review it to the point that we can comment, only confirm that it has been delivered," she wrote in an email.

Saying goodbye

Meanwhile, the 24 employees from the Clarksville post office, including mail carriers and clerks, have moved to the Ellicott City post office at 3375 Ellicott Center Drive. Clarksville Postmaster Anna Foley said Friday, Aug. 12, that the 586 post office boxes were being relocated to the Ellicott City branch.

"There won't be any disruption in service," Foley said.

She said many customers came in to say goodbye that day.

"It's been a very emotional day," Foley said. "We're family, and our family extends to the community, not just to the people in this building."

Ellicott City residents Walter and Ilene Veasel own the Auto Drive property where the postal service had been operating in Clarksville.

In an earlier interview with the Howard County Times, Ilene Veasel said there are "several reasons" she and her husband decided not to renew the lease.

One of those reasons, she said, was not wanting to get tied down with another long-term lease after receiving a letter from the county in July saying it may need to acquire part of their property for the proposed road project, which would connect Auto Drive, Great Star Drive and Route 108.

Ulman said he was surprised to hear that concern, because the Veasels had never contacted him or anyone in his administration to talk about it.

"I think frankly what it's more about is them not wanting to be the reason why there's no more postal service in Clarksville," he said. "They could have contacted our office to ask questions, to inquire about the future of Clarksville and transportation solutions, and it was never done."

Kellie Woodhouse contributed to this report.

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