With at least 100 donation bins scattered throughout the city, Laurel officials are looking to close the lid on their proliferation.
“These boxes are cropping up like mushrooms,” Laurel Council President Frederick Smalls (Ward 2) said. “Presently, they put them up wherever they want. Oftentimes, they don’t even ask permission.”
Ordinance No. 1772, introduced May 13, would require any organization placing a donation bin in the city to apply for a permit and submit proof of its nonprofit status. There also would have to be proof that the property owner has given permission to place the bin.
Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said he has received numerous complaints from residents regarding the donation bins. He estimated that there are more than 100 in the city.
“I’ve had people talk to me about it,” Moe said. “Some people have questioned whether these are really nonprofits.”
Moe said he’s concerned about what organizations did with the materials and whether they had permission to place the bins on public property.
The ordinance allows the city to charge a permitting fee, which has not yet been determined, he said.
“It will be minimal, to cover permitting costs. We’re not doing this to make money,” Moe said.
Neil Gomillion, owner of Auto Lube on Baltimore Avenue, said he allowed the California-based Children’s Disease Research Foundation to place a bin on his property nearly two years ago, but understands why the city would want to pass a permit ordinance.
“There are a lot of them around here and you don’t really know who’s putting them there,” he said.
Levet Brown, president of the Laurel Boys and Girls Club, said his organization is reconsidering allowing two Planet Aid bins in the club’s parking lot.
“We were told that organization charges people for the items that are being donated,” Brown said. “They didn’t mention anything about selling to people. If you charge people for donated items, that goes against what we believe.”
Brown said the Boys and Girls Club committee will discuss the matter at its May 21 meeting.
Frank Fowler, operations manager for Planet Aid, based out of Elkridge, said his company would be happy to comply with the proposed ordinance.
“We look forward to permits. We are one of the few donation centers that do things by the letter,” Fowler said. “It wouldn’t be a hardship, because we do those things already. In fact, it gives us a level playing field with our competitors, who oftentimes don’t.”
Fowler said that like many other well-known charities, clothing received is sold, and the proceeds are used to fund Planet Aid’s charitable programs in developing nations. “It’s all on our website, planetaid.org,” Fowler said.
The CDRF did not respond to multiple requests for comment via phone and email.
Reading Tree, which has a book donation bin next to Safeway on Baltimore Avenue, has a message on its website that as of August 2012, its bins are operated by Discover Books, a for-profit corporation that resells donated books. Discover Books did not return calls or emails for comment.
“We want to continue to be able to offer generous donors the opportunity to give their clothing to people in need, therefore we would follow any criteria that the city or county deems necessary,” Teresa Eaton, director of communications for St. Vincent de Paul, a nonprofit that assists Baltimore families in need and has two Mobile Clothing Bank bins in the Laurel Shopping Center, wrote in an email.
The city will vote on the proposed ordinance during its May 29 meeting.