Pasco County is ramping up enforcement efforts in a quest to put an end to the unlawful placement of donation bins, and illegal dumping that the bins tend to attract.
News of the crackdown came during the Pasco County Commission’s May 21 meeting, when Commissioner Mike Moore advocated banning the bins.
“I hate to call them donation bins because most of them aren’t actual donation bins,” Moore said. “I’d like to see an outright ban. When I say an outright ban, I mean, never again in Pasco County, that I think any of these should be placed anywhere.”
But, Senior Assistant County Attorney Kristi Sims told commissioners that she’s not sure a total ban would hold up in court.
“I am quite confident that we would be sued,” Sims said. “I cannot stand up and tell you that we would win.”
That’s because legal cases involving charitable solicitation are classified as First Amendment cases and it’s difficult to predict what the court would do, Sims explained.
“There are a number of court cases where there have been permitting schemes that have been upheld,” Sims said.
Pasco County’s ordinance allows the bins, but requires them to be permitted.
“Our current ordinance and permitting process does not allow these donation bins to be placed anywhere, except on improved, paved surfaces, on a developed and occupied nonresidential parcel,” Sims said.
A site plan and written consent from the property owner also are required, the attorney said.
There are other requirements, too.
“They’re supposed to be regularly emptied. They’re supposed to be marked. If they’re not for charitable purposes, there’s supposed to be signage that says this is a for profit entity,” Sims said.
“Both the owner of the bin and the property owner are responsible for having a permit,” Sims noted.
The ordinance does allow some exceptions, for recycling facilities and churches, for instance, Sims added.
She also told commissioners that “there has never been a large enforcement action to get what we require together and going, until now.”
She said the county’s attorney’s office recently sent out demand letters to property owners, notifying them they have an illegal donation bin on their property that they may not know about.
Sims said, the county’s letter said, “If you’ve been the victim illegal dumping, then contact us and we will follow the process that we did with one last week, which was to have road and bridge go out and collect the materials, dispose of the junk, confiscate the bin and then investigate it for illegal dumping.
“If it is over a certain tonnage, that could be felony dumping, so we’ll work with the Sheriff’s Office to obtain restitution and make those cases.
“Of the 40 letters that went out, we are expecting probably at least half of them, the response from owners to be: “We have no idea why this is here.”
The county will give the property owners notified until July 1 to go through the permitting process, Sims said, noting it takes some time to process the permit requests.
Sims also noted that 15 of the 40 letters were sent to the same company.
Moore said he thinks the crackdown will be effective.
“So far, we’ve had zero people come in to actually get a permit and sticker for their ‘donation bins,’” Moore said.
When he brought the matter to the board’s attention a couple of years ago, the problem was bad. It tapered off for a while, but is worsening, he said.
He showed board members some photos.
“You can see through the debris, there is two of those donation bins sitting there.
“Think of the cost to the county, or private property owners, including tipping fees and time,” Moore said.
“A lot of these show up when the textile market’s strong, when the commodity is strong,” Moore said. It must be strong now, he added, because more are popping up.
Sims advised board members: “I would suggest that we give it the summer to play out, and see how many of these shake out, when we send out these letters.
“I would like to think that once we do an enforcement action, which we have not done yet, that this will not be known as a friendly county in which to start dumping your bins all over the place,” Sims said.
Moore responded, “potentially, this could play out well.”
In an interview after the meeting, Moore said, “the week before last, we got permission from a property owner to come out and confiscate two bins. They put two next to each other. There had to have been anywhere from eight to 12 mattresses.”
There was also a refrigerator and other items, Moore said, adding that he suspects it was a junk hauler that dumped the stuff.
The same thing happened after the bins were removed.
Moore said the county wants to go after both the people who are placing the bins illegally, and the people who are dumping illegally.
He asked that anyone who has been the victim of illegal dumping to install cameras to help the county catch the criminals.
“In the state of Florida, anything over 500 pounds is considered a third degree felony. Besides fines, there’s also possible jail time.
The county is serious about pursuing legal action, Moore said.
“There’s no slap on the wrist. We will prosecute. We’re done,” Moore said.
Sims urged any property owner who has a donation bin on their property without their permission to report it. The county will confiscate it and use it for evidence in illegal dumping cases, she said.
Report a problem:
If someone has placed a donation bin on your property without your permission, report it to the county. They will confiscate it and use it for evidence in illegal dumping cases. To make the report, email .
Published June 05, 2019
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