Twinsburg cracks down on problematic donation bins by requiring permits

TWINSBURG, Ohio - Following a trend set by other cities in Northeast Ohio, the City of Twinsburg has passed new regulations for clothing donation bins that have become more prevalent in the area. Among other things, the regulations require property owners to erect fencing around the donation bins in addition to a $100 annual permitting fee.

The regulations, which were passed by the city council, come amid the proliferation of donation bins, many of which go unmonitored by their out-of-state owners.

According to the ordinance, any property owner wanting to have a donation bin on their property must secure a permit. In order to obtain a permit, the donation bin cannot be placed on property within a residential zoning district unless it's on an institutional property within a residential district. Donation bins must also be screened from public view by way of a wooden fence, the ordinance states.

Property owners must also have a written agreement with the owners of the donation bin in order to secure a permit. The permit holder must also ensure donated items are placed in the bin and the bin cannot be overflowing. Property owners also cannot have more than two bins on any one lot.

According to Twinsburg’s law director, David Maistros, the key component to the legislation is the part that requires owner contact information be placed on the donation bin. Maistros said that until the ordinance was passed, the city had no way of knowing who maintained or owned the bin, oftentimes forcing the city to clean up piles of donated clothes outside the bins at the taxpayers’ expense.

The companies that are contracted to collect the donated clothes often don’t pick up items placed outside the bins. There have also been cases of people leaving large, bulky items like couches and mattresses outside the bins, despite the bins clearly stating that only items like clothing are accepted.

Sarbjeet Toor, the owner of Best Stop convenience store, inherited two Planet Aid donation bins when he purchased the property two years ago. To this day, Toor said the bins have never created any issues for him.

“It’s just for customer convenience, people’s convenience,” Toor said. “I don’t get anything out of it. I just keep it for customer convenience.”

With the new ordinance, however, the two donation bins outside his store could be borrowed time.

“I will ask the company to pick up those bins. I don’t want that kind of a headache. I don’t make any money on it. I don’t get anything out of it,” Toor said. “I don’t want any kind of fencing. I’m doing it for customer convenience. I’m covering up my storefront just for people’s convenience. I don’t want to pay money for it.”

There are more than a half-dozen Planet Aid donation bins in Twinsburg. One of them is tucked behind a commercial strip mall on Ravenna Road, a couple of stores down from Daryl Pannell’s barber shop, Cutting Edge Barber & Salon. He’s been at the same location for 20 years.

“I didn’t even notice it was there. There’s no problem at this facility,” Pannell said. “I don’t see what’s the big deal. It gives people clothes who might need it. It gives people access to stuff they don’t wear anymore. I think [the city is] creating a problem.”

While many charity watchdog groups have been critical of Planet Aid’s business practices, it remains a registered non-profit with the IRS. Clothing that can’t be sold or isn’t sold at thrift stores will sometimes end up in distant countries or are used as filler for seats in vehicles.

While Pannell and Toor said they haven’t had any issues with overflowing donations outside the bins near their businesses, the same cannot be said for a pair of donation bins outside a drug store in Twinsburg. When News 5 stopped by on Wednesday afternoon, there was a substantial pile of bags of clothing stacked up like Lego bricks. This is the kind of image the city wants to prevent, Maistros said.

The $100 annual permitting fee per bin drew the concern of some city council members. However, the planning commission may reduce the permitting fee by this time next year once the database is up and running, Maistros said. The cost of the permitting fee isn’t intended to make money for the city, but instead help cover the costs of starting up the database, Maistros said. 

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