Cave Creek wants new ZIP code identity

CAVE CREEK, AZ - Cave Creek officials want to change the town's ZIP code boundaries so residents are better represented.

ZIP code 85331 goes as far north as Tonto National Forest and as far south as Jomax Road, about 5 miles from the southern border of Cave Creek.

The town largely shares the space with the much more densely populated Phoenix and a small part of Carefree.

Officials with the U.S. Postal Service say boundaries for the 85331 ZIP code haven't changed since the five-digit delivery codes were implemented in the 1960s.

Councilman Dick Esser, who is spearheading the effort, said the population density in Phoenix's portion of the ZIP code has increased drastically over the years, while Cave Creek has remained true to its Wild West lifestyle and open spaces, which is 50 percent of the town.

The results has been confusion over voter registration, changes in insurance costs and property values, as well as a perception that crime is higher in Cave Creek than it really is, according to Esser.

"It's an identity thing," Esser said. "Over the last 20 years, there has been a big influx to the south and more population encroachment. Our home values are going down because we're being lumped in with Phoenix."

Jeffrey Chapman, a professor in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University, said there has been no empirical work proving that ZIP codes affect property values.

ZIP codes are often not aligned with municipal boundaries, so many people have mailing addresses in neighboring jurisdictions, causing Phoenix residents to think they live in Cave Creek.

Town Clerk Carrie Dyrek told The Arizona Republic that she gets numerous calls from non-residents who have Cave Creek mailing addresses requesting town-related services.

"People call all the time looking for services such as water or trash or building and zoning information, but we don't provide it in their area," she said. "Then they want to know where they live."

Realtor and Cave Creek resident Kim Brennan said population and land density start to increase dramatically once you head south of the Carefree Highway into Phoenix, where homes generally sit on lots that are one-fifth of an acre. This includes the Tatum Ranch area, a master-planned community of 3,400 homes and five commercial sites near Tatum Boulevard and Cave Creek Road.

Many parcels in Cave Creek, which has a population of about 5,000, are zoned for homes on 2 1/2- to 5-acre parcels. Brennan said about 2,500 Cave Creek residents probably occupy homes that are zoned that way.

The Postal Service has a ZIP code boundary review process to accommodate requests such as Cave Creek's. The district manager for 85331 will review Cave Creek's request, which will be submitted this week, and provide a decision within 60 days of the submittal.