1. Archive

Maps confusion creates nightmare on Virginia Street

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

Georgiana Clem's troubles began six years ago, and they continue today.

The carpet cleaner could not find his way to her home last month. The pizza delivery people always have trouble too. So do florists or anyone else who relies on a map to find her home.

Clem is haunted by a chain of events that took place about 1990 when a developer from a nearby subdivision requested that the name of her street, Virginia Street, be changed to Beltrees Street.

The reason, apparently, was that her stretch of Virginia lined up perfectly with Beltrees, a new street created by the developer.

Clem objected strongly. She questioned why she and her husband should have to change their address and their personal papers just to suit a developer. At the time, they had been in the home 21 years.

Because the county requires 100 percent approval by residents before a name change can be granted, the threat ended.

Or so Clem thought.

Later, she noticed that people were having trouble finding her home.

"I just though people were not following my directions," she said. "It's been progressively getting worse."

Then a month ago, the carpet cleaner showed Clem and her husband a map. The street in front of their home was labeled Beltrees.

"Try to tell people that a map is wrong," Clem said. "We're geared in this society to believe anything that is printed."

By Tuesday morning, she had had all she could stand when the Times used the name Beltrees to describe the location of a nearby sinkhole.

The Times used a 1992 book map called a StreetFinder, which was published by Rand McNally & Co.

The mistake was corrected in the next edition in 1994, which labels the street Virginia. A 1988 edition, before the developer's request, also labels it Virginia.

Clem suspects someone who wanted the street name changed somehow "leaked" the name Beltrees to Rand McNally.

According to Hank Doyle, a Rand McNally spokesman, the company relies on maps provided by the county, although that information sometimes is supplemented by field researchers who may write down a name from a street sign.

All the signs along Virginia Street label it correctly. Doyle said the change to Beltrees for the 1992 edition probably originated with the county.

County officials could not immediately track the problem Tuesday because 6-year-old records are in storage and the computer system that indexes them was not working.

Now that the maps have been produced, Clem fears her problem could last for years. Each time the mistake is repeated, she said, the name Beltrees Street gets more credibility.

She said she is hoping it does not affect emergency services, especially in later years. She and her husband plan to retire in the home.

Her fears appear well-founded. While a map in the county engineer's office correctly labels her street Virginia, a 1994 Rand McNally wall map in the Times offices labels it Beltrees.

Another wall map manufactured by Universal Map of Lake Monroe names it either Greenbriar Street or Beltrees, depending on how one interprets it. It's the company's 1996-97 edition.

"Just saying they want it to be (Beltrees) doesn't change it," said a frustrated Clem. "It might seem like a very petty thing to some people, but it isn't. It's making it very difficult for us."

Doyle said Rand McNally wants its maps to be accurate and welcomes all suggestions from the public. He said people should write to the company's consumer affairs department, 8255 N Central Park, Skokie, Ill. 60076.

"Sometimes," he said, "people are a lot faster than the state in telling us what's going on."