NORTH ROYALTON — After months of review, city council has passed the donation bin ordinance, which works to avoid bins becoming nuisances and ensures donations are truly going to charities, in a 6-1 vote last week.
Ward 2 Councilman Gary Petrusky was the sole no vote against the legislation citing issues with the ordinance being redundant and not “fair and equitable across the board.”
Everyone else is in agreement that this measure is timely and needed especially with the hope of a town center and one of the objectives identified by the master plan process pertaining to preserving and enhancing the city’s image, in mind.
The ordinance, following the city of Cleveland’s lead, will now require bin operators to register their bins with the city by acquiring an annual permit and paying an annual fee of $100, a fee that will cover costs incurred by the city’s building department. Bins will now be inspected yearly by the city.
The main thrust of this issue has been to regulate these donation bins for not only appearance and placement sake but to deter bins by for-profit businesses that accept residents’ clothing and good donations and turn around and sell those items for a profit. Ward 5 Councilman Steve Muller has stated at previous meetings that he believes the $100 permit fee is excessive, but he voted for the ordinance because of its intent and merit.
“There are a lot of positive qualities with it, and I do think, while overall it’s a minor item in the community, making sure it doesn’t become a problem like it has in another community nearby is important,” he said. “I did bring up the point of the fee on a couple of occasions. I could tell the rest of council was satisfied, so based on the positive qualities, I voted in favor of it.”
Petrusky’s argument is that there is already a nuisance ordinance on the books the city could have simply amended and cited if ever any issues with bins arose. That, and the fact that when bins are placed on school, church or municipal property the bin operator is exempt from paying the $100 fee as part of the ordinance, didn’t sit right with him.
“I believe it was a duplication of a prior ordinance that, with a few minor tweaks, we could have used instead of passing something new. We could have cited a property owner … we didn’t need the ordinance,” Petrusky said. “And, I believe everything should be fair and equitable. I believe everybody should have been responsible, whether it’s at a school or a church, so if somebody doesn’t take care of it, they are still responsible.”
Council President Larry Antoskiewicz, who introduced this ordinance, said this is a very specific issue that needed a very specific set of rules to properly regulate it. Yes, there is a nuisance ordinance on the books he said, but it does not address allowing only nonprofit bins within the city and exclude for-profit bin operators, and it did not define the permitting process.
“I’m a guy that doesn’t like a lot of rules or a lot of laws. This wasn’t on the books. Never once did I hear the law department say we could cite this under the nuisance ordinance. What I heard them say is that there is not anything on the books to regulate these, and if we didn’t have anything to regulate them, the bins needed to be removed from the city,” Antoskiewicz said. “And apparently, other cities feel that way because they are starting to regulate them and feel that they are starting to become an issue.”
The city of Cleveland just passed a similar ordinance in January, and Brook Park recently passed legislation too. Currently about 10 cities in Ohio now regulate it and Planet Aid, one of the more popular nonprofit bin operators, is working with a dozen more to enact legislation.
It’s become such an issue in Michigan that 72 cities there have banned donation bins altogether.
And the issue has now made its way to North Royalton.
In fact, Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw mentioned one such bin at the meeting and showed his colleagues pictures where garbage is being dumped outside and inside a clothing bin, which is attracting animals. He has been trying to contact the bin owner to resolve the issue to no avail. This legislation would avoid such a scenario.
In a hypothetical situation Antoskiewicz said as an example, if the nonprofit organization XYZ contracts with a gas station to have one of their bins on that property, XYZ must register that bin with the city’s building department and pay the $100 permit fee. If an issue ever arises with said bin, the city will contact XYZ directly. If the city cannot reach XYZ, responsibility will fall on the gas station owner.
“And that shouldn’t be a problem because the gas station owner’s going to call XYZ and say, ‘hey, take care of your bin or get it off my property,’” Antoskiewicz said.
In a pressing situation, such as the real life situation Langshaw is referring to, the city can always impound the bin if need be under this ordinance.
Langshaw explained the ordinance’s intent to nearby residents who have had to deal with this particular nuisance bin, and they were on board with the legislation.
“I applaud the council president for spearheading this. With what’s going on in my ward, I’m very proud to be one of the sponsors for this. It makes sense. And this is very timely,” he said. “This situation really proves, if anything, that the residents I represent, they want something done about it. This is necessary. The residents of my ward are battling this now and no one is being held accountable for the maintenance of these bins. These bins are supposed to be for a good purpose, but they are causing a lot of unexpected consequences.”
Antoskiewicz said this ordinance is just another necessary step in avoiding blight.
“For as much as we have been trying to clean up some things in the city, some of these are in right of ways, some are in areas that ultimately down the road if we start putting together a town center, without any regulation, ultimately, it could be in a condition that’s not appealing to the city,” he said.
His prime concern has never wavered, and it’s a concern the ordinance primarily addresses.
“One of the reasons I brought it up is I didn’t want for-profit companies to be taking advantage of residents who are putting their items in bins under the impression they are donating their stuff to charity,” he said. “That’s why we wanted to have the 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations only. So, under the guidance of the law, we can reasonably believe that the donations are going to what they were intended for, a good cause.”