Clothing and book donation boxes: Convenient, ugly, ecology-conscious, trashy -- or all of the above?
The Geneva Plan Commission is going to have a public hearing about changing city law to ban or restrict the large, free-standing metal boxes, at the request of the city council.
The city's community development department staff suggested banning them completely, but several alderman voiced their opposition to that Monday night.
Most vehemently opposed to an outright ban was Alderman Chuck Brown, who worried it would prohibit churches from having boxes on their property for mission work. Alderman Sam Hill pointed out that schools sometimes have such boxes to collect paper for recycling to raise money.
Brown also questioned whether the city had any business keeping owners of commercial sites from putting what they wanted in their parking lots.
"I'm a little worried that this (a ban) is a little over the top," Brown said, calling it a "sledgehammer approach."
Alderman Don Cummings noted that sometimes stores put a donation box outside their doors to recycle used products such as athletic shoes.
Community Development Director Dick Untch said the boxes are "averse to the quality and character of the commercial environment on Randall Road," which has the largest number of boxes.
As for Brown's concern about the city telling business owners whether they can or can't have the boxes on their property, Untch noted city officials have spent a lot of time making sure real-estate developers build attractive properties, requiring specific landscaping and screening of garbage bins or incorporating them to buildings' designs. The donation boxes are not part of the planning and sometimes are dropped on a property without the landowner's permission, he said.
The other problem, Untch said, is that the boxes are unsupervised. If boxes are full, people often leave items outside of them, he said. His memo to the city council contained pictures showing loose trash, items in garbage bags and even furniture outside of boxes.
One spot where boxes have proliferated is a shopping center on the northwest corner of Randall and Fabyan Parkway. There are seven in one corner of the parking lot, and one by a grocery store entrance. Several of the boxes collect donations for charitable causes, but others clearly state what's collected goes to for-profit organizations.
The city could choose to merely regulate the boxes, including licensing them, inspecting them and issuing tickets if they become unkempt, Untch said.
"Then I have to have staff bird-dogging these businesses," he said. "It's an unwieldy amount of staff-level work for the resources I have."
The public hearing has not been scheduled.