Following years of residents’ effort and support from local and federal politicians, the Town of Hillsboro this year finally got its address back. While this has pleased the 120 in-town residents, it’s created trouble for some of the nearly 2,000 residents living outside the town limits.
Beginning April 1, the United States Postal Service agreed to recognize Hillsboro as a unique town by identifying thousands of addresses north of Rt. 7 as being part of Hillsboro, rather than Purcellville. This change came after the town requested that the postal service reinstate Hillsboro’s former 20133 ZIP code that was eliminated in the consolidation with Purcellville14 years ago. USPS decided to keep 20132 in place, but it clarified that residents in the northern portion of the 80-square-mile mailing zone could use either “Hillsboro” or “Purcellville” as their address. That option, however, has created confusion for some residents.
According to Bruce, the vice president of the Catoctin Creek Homeowners Association, some of his mail has been either lost or late. He also said that it’s an “unreasonable hassle” for residents to notify friends and companies of the change, noting that several business owners in the community now need to change the addresses on their marketing materials “at significant expense.”
Catoctin Creek resident Alan Jackson said that he never knew of the plan to change the ZIP code, which has been a priority for the town since 2016. When he returned home this summer from a winter in Florida, he was surprised to see that his mail had a Hillsboro address.
“We weren’t even aware what was going on,” he said. “That’s what’s so frustrating about it.”
After realizing that he could use either town name, Jackson scheduled a delivery to his home using his Purcellville address, only to learn that the delivery driver couldn’t find his house. He said he also temporarily lost two checks in the mail.
According to Felicia Lott, the postal service’s strategic communications specialist, USPS doesn’t dictate which town name companies and individuals use when addressing mail. She also said that residents should be receiving all of their mail, since USPS uses ZIP codes to determine which post office it goes to.
“It really shouldn’t matter [which town name is used],” she said. “There shouldn’t be a problem with getting their mail.”
A representative from the Purcellville Post Office also said that, although many residents have complained about the change, everyone in the 20132 ZIP code should still be getting their mail.
Aside from experiencing problems as a result of the change, some residents also claim they weren’t involved in, and were unaware of, the two-year-long process. Hillsboro Mayor Roger Vance said the town did all it could to get the word out through the media, the town website and a notice sent to affected residents answering 30 questions about the change.
Vance said that if the postal service approved a full ZIP code change, the town would have been required to send residents a survey to determine whether or not they were in favor of it. Because USPS decided to merely add a preferred city name to the ZIP code, a survey was not required.
While Vance said he was hopeful that USPS would notify residents of the change, nothing was sent out. “They just didn’t do that,” he said.
Others have welcomed and benefited from the change. Alta Jones, the owner of AltaTerra Farm Bed and Breakfast just west of Hillsboro, said she likes that she now has a Hillsboro address, since her business is located much closer to Hillsboro than it is to Purcellville. “I think it’s just another element in packaging the Hillsboro area,” she said.
The address change gives the town its unique identity back, which it started to lose 34 years ago, when the Hillsboro Post Office shut down. From 1984-2004, residents used P.O. boxes in the Hill Tom Market to get their mail. In 2004, the town lost its 20134 ZIP code. Town residents have shared the 20132 ZIP code with Purcellville ever since. Last November, the town formally requested USPS reestablish the unused 20133 ZIP code. Supporting that request were multiple local and state politicians, including Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10).
As a solution to their concerns, USPS has agreed to change the Catoctin Creek neighborhood’s preferred city name back to Purcellville. Vance said that change should be completed by next Monday at the latest.
Lott said that residents should contact the post office if they continue experiencing problems. “We want them to get their mail,” she said.