The ordinance the Commerce City Council passed in March regulating “donation boxes” has all but eliminated the boxes and the problems they created.
As of last week, only three of the boxes — all owned by the same company — had been removed, and the city is pursuing the removal of those.
While many people assumed the boxes were a means of donating used items, particularly clothing, to a charitable organization or at least a good cause, most of the boxes were operated by for-profit companies, noted city code enforcement officer Billy Vandiver.
“It’s a money-making racket,” Vandiver said. “The clothes are dropped off and they sell them by the pound.”
In some cases, Vandiver said, the companies promised to weigh the boxes and to share the proceeds with owners of the property in exchange for being able to put the boxes there.
“They never did,” Vandiver said.
The issue came to the forefront following the Commerce Christmas Parade, when city officials in the parade rode by the coin laundry on Washington Street and were disturbed to see an old mattress and miscellaneous furniture piled around a collection box in the laundromat’s parking lot. About the same time, they noted a similar situation at a box in the parking lot of the Quality Foods shopping center on Maysville Road.
The council responded with an ordinance requiring a $25 initial permit for the boxes plus a $10 annual fee and fines of up to $250 per day if the boxes attracted clutter and debris.
When the city first addressed the issue, there were 24 boxes scattered around town. As of last week, Vandiver said only three remained, all owned by one company.