Manatee commission could approve ordinance to ban unattended donation boxes

MANATEE -- Unattended donation boxes on public property or public rights of way soon may be prohibited in unincorporated Manatee County.

The Manatee County Commission could approve a ban during its land-use meeting Thursday.

Unattended donation boxes are situated throughout Manatee County, but "you will see them more dominating during holidays," said Jeff Bowman, Manatee County Code Enforcement Division chief.

The ordinance was commission-initiated, Bowman said. On July 30, 2014, the commission asked staff to draft a regulation "controlling and regulating donation boxes in the unincorporated areas of Manatee County," according to agenda materials. The commission discussed the ordinance at its Dec. 9 work session.

"The ordinance regulates unattended donation boxes that can't be placed in public rights of way but can be on private property," Bowman said.

No existing unattended donation boxes will be confiscated for 30 days following ordinance approval. Properties with existing unattended donation boxes have until July 1 to come into compliance, according to the ordinance.

When asked whether they've gotten feedback from nonprofits, Bowman said: "We haven't heard anything negative back on it."

The ordinance would not affect nonprofits such as Manatee County Toys for Tots as all of its donation boxes are inside stores and other properties, said Robert Fields with Manatee County Toys for Tots.

Attempts to reach other organizations such as Goodwill, Shoes for the Cure and Go Green Charity Recyclers were unsuccessful Wednesday.

The proposed ordinance states unattended donation boxes and goods placed in

and around them "can be aesthetically unpleasing and can cause safety hazards and blight upon neighborhoods and locations."

The commission determined the ordinance is the "best way to regulate the placement and use of unattended donation drop boxes."

The proposed ordinance has some exceptions. Boxes will be allowed on property where the primary structure is used by a not-for-profit organization. Also, boxes should be maintained in good condition with "no structural damage, holes, visible rust and graffiti; and no advertisement of any kind on the box except the identify of the charitable organization and the purpose of the donation effort.

Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at caronson@bradenton.com. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.