Background of Addressing in Washington County
In 1989 Washington County began the process of readdressing, moving away from the rural route system of addressing used by the United States Postal Service to a more consistent grid system used across the country. The State of Maryland mandated that all counties switch to a grid system with the purpose of enhancing emergency services response. Counties were required to have unique physical addresses for habitable structures. Washington County decided to tackle this readdressing by postal district. Each postal district underwent a survey via door to door address checks to determine the location and address of all structures in the County. New addresses were then assigned using a grid system with numbers increasing from West to East and from South to North with odds on the right and evens on the left as numbers increase. In some cases roads were named where 3 or more structures used a single driveway or in cases where duplicated road names occurred. In 1990 thru 1991 letters were sent explaining the changes and included the new address for each structure. The postal service provided (1) year of service to the old address before mail would be returned to the sender.
In 1995, the Planning and Zoning office began translating the paper tax map copies with address points on them to Geographic Information System (GIS) data. In 2005, the county obtained more accurate aerial imagery and an updated version of the address points. It was clear from the combination of aerial imagery and address points that some addresses were incorrect due to inaccuracies in previous mapping or changes over time. The county underwent another field verification of addresses from 2006-2010 which identified addresses which were out of sequence, in the wrong block range (based on the grid system applied to assigned addresses), odd on the even side of the road, and more than 3 structures on a private drive, etc. During subdivision or permit review, these errors are reported to the property owner to attempt to revise the addresses as needed.
Since 2011, the Planning and Zoning Department has been working on an Addressing Ordinance which will take current policies and organize them in a formal document so that the public, consultants and staff have a clear policy on the creation and modification of addresses. The future of addressing in Washington County will include the maintenance of addresses for Emergency Services, the initiation of discussion with property owners to fix gross addressing errors such as numbers in the wrong block, odds on the even side of the street and private driveways needing names. Eventually, the county also hopes to work with property owners to make sure their numbers are posted on their structure to ensure timely emergency response.