Independence city officials are taking a look at how to deal with the donation bins outside of businesses across the city – some of which have become overflowing eyesores.
They won't make any decision in the immediate future, though. Monday, the City Council sent back to the staff an ordinance that would require donation bins in commercial and industrial zoned areas to be at active and open businesses.
The ordinance is designed to eliminate the bins in front of closed businesses that often have little oversight, and it also creates a process, including appeals to remove non-compliant bins.
Currently, donation bins are allowed on parking lots of permanently closed businesses.
The Planning Commission had not recommended approval, due mainly to questions about how much the property owner or bin owner would be responsible for a nuisance bin. Because of that and other questions, the council asked city staff to fine-tune the ordinance before bringing it back for a vote.
“We've got a lot of details we'd like to work out,” Mayor Eileen Weir. “If we're going to pass something, I would want it to have an effective, positive result for the community.
“I think we all agree these bins are a problem.”
Weir noted that without many widespread recycling options some people have tended to use the donation bins for recycling, or even for trash. Many times, those bins are in retail parking lots that don't require all of that space, and bin space is rented out.
City staff intended to have the non-compliant bins be considered “rubbish,” allowing for an appeals process where the hearing officer could extend the deadline for removal. If the property owner had not wanted the bin in the first place, that person could work with the city to contact the bin owner and work to have the bin removed with no cost to the city or property owner.
Tom Scannell, director of community development, said the city is not looking to penalize property owners where the bins are.
“That would only be in the extreme case where the property owner has not contacted us,” he said. “Some of the things we've seen, (the bins are) not picked up on a regular cycle.”
Council Member Karen DeLuccie suggested the ordinance should say that all donated items “shall fit inside the bin” instead of “should fit inside the bin.” She also wondered if the city could alter the allowance of two bins on a site one acre or less and up to five bins on a larger properties.
“I am tired of seeing couches and mattresses leaned up against a donation bin,” she said. “I'm so tired of seeing five bins in all in a row. These just contribute to how the city looks.”
Scannell said they city's development and health departments could revisit that allowance number.
Council Member Scott Roberson asked if the city could have the ordinance worded to unquestionably assign upkeep to bin owners.
“To me, they should have the primary responsibility,” he said.