Paul and Denise Eden live between Silver Spring and Burtonsville off Greencastle Road, in the eastern corner of Montgomery County. But the Edens and their 2,000 neighbors sometimes have a hard time proving they are county residents.
They live in ZIP code area 20707, a district that stretches across Montgomery, Prince George's and Howard counties. It is a kind of no-man's land as far as government agencies are concerned, and living there has complicated all the homeowners' lives.
The state Motor Vehicle Administration issued Paul Eden a driver's license saying he lives in Prince George's; Denise Eden's license says she's a resident of Howard County, which lies to the north. The driver's licenses of George and Bernadine Starken, who live nearby, reflect the same confusion.
Like all residents of the newly built subdivisions along Greencastle Road, the Edens and the Starkens pay taxes to Montgomery County and are connected to a Silver Spring telephone exchange.
But to the Postal Service, they're residents of Laurel, in Prince George's. The Laurel address leads to errors in driver's licenses and bars them from getting Montgomery County library cards and mailings from the county.
It also presents the potential for problems in emergencies, the residents contend, because their calls to the 911 emergency system are sometimes routed to Prince George's and must be relayed to Montgomery.
"In a stress situation where seconds count, such a circumstance can result in undue delays and possible tragedy," said Michael L. Gudis, Montgomery County Council member who represents eastern Montgomery County and who lobbied the U.S. Postal Service to change the ZIP code.
Some of the residents have tried to get out of 20707, but without success, because the Postal Service did not see any operational need to change the way it delivers the mail.
Recently, however, the neighborhood campaign picked up steam, culminating in an emotional meeting last week with Postal Service and Montgomery officials and an exchange of correspondence between politicians representing the area and the mail executives.
On Tuesday, a week after the meeting, the tide finally turned.
Regional postal officials said they had looked into the matter once more and found no serious operational or cost problem in redistricting the Greencastle section into the Burtonsville ZIP code area.
Now the matter proceeds to the eastern regional office of the U.S. Postal Service, which plans to survey the residents to make sure they want the change, said Frank Brennan, spokesman for the office.
The change in designation couldn't come too soon, residents said.
"We have to prove our identity with everything we do," said Eden, president of the Greencastle Homeowners Association.
"Every form we fill out, we're questioned," Eden said. "If we want to get phone service, we're told to call the Laurel office. After we give the Laurel office our location, they tell us to call their Silver Spring office.
"When you call the Silver Spring office, they tell you to call the Laurel office. We spend hours of time on the phone and they're still debating what office to go through."
Greencastle residents also complained that Montgomery College charges them higher tuition fees in the mistaken belief that they are residents of Prince George's.
Insurance companies charge higher premiums -- on the assumption that they live in Prince George's, which has higher auto and fire insurance rates than Montgomery, they say.
Confusion over addresses also makes it difficult to get their home phone numbers through the information operators, they said.
Montgomery County officials also said they will take steps to make sure that Greencastle Road residents receive mailings from the county information office, the Recreation Department and other county agencies.
They also pledged that Greencastle Road callers will have direct access to Montgomery County's emergency operations center by June. But everything else "hinges on getting that ZIP code changed," said Carol Henry, aide to Gudis.