Some clothing donation/collection boxes on commercial properties, especially along Woodville Road, will be removed in Northwood, according to City Administrator Bob Anderson, because they are becoming an eyesore.
“I’ve had a number of complaints about the proliferation of clothing collection boxes,” Anderson said at a Nov. 7 council meeting. “I’ve looked at it, and decided to direct the zoning department to send out notices to the owners of the properties indicating these boxes are non-permissible accessory structures, especially in our Central Business District. We’re going to start taking them out and storing them.”
The Press obtained a copy of one of the certified letters sent Oct. 31 by Kimberly Vaculik, Northwood’s planning, zoning & economic development coordinator, to Millennium Property & Holding LLC, of Romulus, Michigan. It states that the collection box at 4433 Woodville Rd (former AP gas station) is a non-permissible accessory structure zoning violation.
“Due to a complaint made to my office, I made an inspection of your property at 4433 Woodville Rd. Upon inspection, I noticed that you have several accessory structures (clothing collection boxes) on your property. This is not permitted by the Central Business District zoning code,” states the letter.
“An accessory use is permitted when it is clearly, customarily and incidentally subordinate to the principal, permitted use of a parcel. This is clearly not the case with `clothing collection boxes’ within the Central Business District. Therefore, you must remove any and all collection boxes currently located on your property within 15 days from the date of this notice. Failure to comply may result in further action, including, but not limited to the removal of the boxes by the city.”
“We have a right to remedy the problem if the owner doesn’t respond to the letter or the city cannot identify the owner,” said Anderson.
A letter was also sent to the owner of the Woodville Mall to remove a collection box located there, said Anderson.
“The owner promised to get it out of there,” he said.
Most of the boxes belong to Planet Aid, a non-profit group that started in the Boston area in 1997 collecting and recycling used clothing and shoes. A message to the organization was not returned to The Press for comment. Its website states that the project “protects the environment and supports sustainable development in impoverished communities around the world.”
“The property owners are the ones who are allowing that use on their property,” said Anderson. “I’m going to pick them up and bring them over here. If they want them, they can come over and get them. I’m not trying to hurt them – we can end up with all the collection boxes up and down the street. They can come and get them, but they cannot put them back on their properties.”
Some cities that have restricted or banned the boxes charge removal fees, but Anderson said Northwood will not, for now.
“I’m going to get the most egregious ones first. I’m hoping this will keep them from doing this in Northwood. I hope I don’t have to do an ordinance. Rossford, I understand, has an ordinance prepared that will be dealing with clothing collection boxes. I’m hoping to do it in Northwood with the existing building code,” said Anderson.
Patrick Kearney, operations manager of Planet Aid, said he “recognizes that there is a need in most cities to regulate the placement, advertising and service of all collection bins.”
“The answer is not banning the collection boxes completely…the answer is regulation,” he said. “We are more than happy to work with local communities on their recycling efforts.”
He noted that Cleveland was recently facing similar issues and passed an ordinance regulating all recycling bins within the city limits.
“Cleveland should be applauded and recognized for setting the example for all cities facing similar challenges,” said Kearney. “The ordinance basically requires all collection bins in their city to have a permit and you are able to obtain a permit through an application process and submitting a fee. The ordinance limits the number of bins on a property, requires information that holds people accountable for the service and appearance of the bins. Ultimately, Cleveland was facing a problem and worked together to figure out a way to continue providing a service to the citizens, keep the city clean, reduce waste, recycle more, create more jobs and give back to those in need.”
Also at the meeting, council:
• Approved the appointment of Louis Fahrbach to fill the unexpired term of Councilman Dave Gallaher. The term expires at the end of the year. Councilman Randy Kozina nominated Fahrbach because he was the top vote getter in the Nov. 7 election for city council. Fahrbach will then begin his own term on council at the first of the year.
• Unanimously voted against a recommendation by the recreation board to increase softball and baseball fees.
• Heard Anderson say he is putting together a policy restricting city employees’ use of social media. “A couple of instances have come up,” he said. I’d like to see a policy by the first of the year.”
• Heard that the new Wales Road is now open to traffic. “They’re out there with straw and grass. Signs are going up,” said Anderson. The city plans to change the names of new access or stub roads and cul de sacs with names that are more acceptable to local residents who live on those roads.