By Jason Morris, Zoning & Land Use Attorney with Withey Morris
The commercial real estate industry has been dealing with the blight and frustrations associated with charity donation bins for many years. Across the industry, property owners and managers tell their experiences dealing with nuisances caused by bins, as they mysteriously appear unwanted on retail and commercial sites. My clients are forced to contend with mattresses and other over-sized items that are dumped near bins, making centers look shabby and unkempt; or a massive bin suddenly materializing on a site, taking up multiple parking spaces – often destroying landscaping. On behalf of our clients, we have made repeated requests that something be done to protect property owners. Now, some Valley cities are finally taking action, including a year-long effort by Phoenix that is set to go before Mayor Stanton and city council in October. The city of Phoenix initiated a text amendment, a common way for cities to regulate land uses, to establish basic parameters regulating a currently unregulated industry and offer desperately needed protection to property owners.
According to city of Phoenix staff, the proliferation of these bins in recent years has given rise to the number of complaints from neighbors, community leaders and the real estate industry. City Hall is finally listening. The proposed text amendment that will require property owner authorization before a bin can be placed on a site, as well as dictate how many bins can be on a site and manage the size of these bins. The policy also includes language requiring boxes with graffiti, or damage to be replaced and spells out expectations for bin organizations to remove over-sized items in a timely manner. A city fee of $135 per bin will be charged by the city for each bin permit, however, churches and houses of worship are excluded from the policy. The text amendment has received overwhelming support throughout the process, including at the Village Planning Committee level, Planning Commission and most recently with the City Council Subcommittee on Neighborhoods, Housing and Development, which voted 3 – 1 in favor.
While support has been strong, there is a growing influential group organizing to oppose the effort, comprised of the for-profit donation bin companies and their lobbyists. We all know there are several legitimate charities using donation bins responsibly, but the vast majority of bins in the Valley are owned and operated by the growing for-profit donation bin industry. These companies are attracted to Arizona’s arid climate because it preserves donations for long periods of time, and have unfortunately proven to be the most unresponsive to property owner and manager complaints of unwanted bins, dumping, blight, graffiti and damaged bins. They are also taking donations from the legitimate charities that serve our community.
On Wednesday, October 2, the Phoenix city council will hear the donation bin text amendment proposal. This is the final step before enacting the policy that protects property rights, which our industry so vehemently believes in and relies upon. You can voice your support for the donation bin text amendment by contacting Mayor Greg Stanton and city council members by phone or email in advance of the hearing. If you are able to attend the meeting on Wednesday at 3 p.m. in council chambers at 200 W. Jefferson St. in Phoenix, please attend and personally express your support for this important policy.