A lawyer for Planet Aid, a non-profit group that collects clothing and shoes in recycling drop boxes across the country, has asked the City of Northwood to reconsider the removal of the boxes or it could face litigation.
The city last year mailed letters to the owners of the collection boxes, as well as to the owners of properties where the boxes are located, to inform them they are in violation of the zoning code. The bins, described by Northwood as “accessory structures,” are not permitted by the Central Business District Zoning Code.
“…you must remove any and all collection boxes currently located on your property…Failure to comply may result in further action, including, but not limited to, the removal of the boxes by the city,” stated the letter.
The city has removed several boxes, which have cropped up mostly along commercial corridors over the years. The public has complained to city officials, calling them unsightly.
Planet Aid’s lawyer, Daniel P. Dalton, of the Dalton & Tomich law firm in Detroit, sent a letter to City Administrator Bob Anderson on April 9 urging the city to reconsider the removal of the boxes.
“As you are aware, my client has donation bins throughout the city and has had them in place for many years,” states Dalton in the letter. “My client entered into contracts with property managers to place a bin on the property and has since placed the clearly marked and properly maintained collection bin on the property.”
He further states that his client was informed that the bins are a violation of the approved site plans for that business, and therefore must be removed. When asked if his client could submit a site plan for the placement of bins, the city indicated it would process the application but the request would be denied because Northwood “wants to ban all bins within its borders,” states Dalton.
“This is troublesome from both a legal and practical standpoint,” states Dalton. “We believe that through proper local regulation, the city can achieve its goal of regulating bins and avoid litigation.”
He said a proposed ordinance would resolve the matter.
“A local ordinance that regulates the placement of bins, the maintenance of bins and the consequences of failing to maintain permission to place a bin or maintain a bin, has proven to be workable for many communities,” states Dalton.
“We have…successfully litigated these cases across the United States when local communities do not desire to work together and the local community bans collection bins,” states Dalton.
Anderson told The Press last week the city will not agree to work with Planet Aid to pass an ordinance or create land use regulations regarding the placement of clothing boxes or bins.
The city, he added, is unwavering in its stance to ban bins that are accessory structures in violation of the zoning code.
“It’s a zoning issue. I’m going to continue to do what we’re doing using our zoning laws to do it,” said Anderson.
There are non-profit organizations that place bins on their properties that comply with the zoning code, he said.
“Goodwill’s bins are actually an accessory use of their business, which is the collection and distribution of clothing to people. It’s a permitted use of that particular property. But you can’t put a clothing collection box at a gas station because that business of collecting clothing has nothing to do with selling gas. We’re not picking on Planet Aid. That’s been our stance all along. Zoning has pretty much withstood the test of courts. I think we’re fine in asking them to comply with our zoning laws.”