New Regulations and Restrictions on Donation Drop Boxes
Rather than Gripe, Help Take Back Our Community
By: M. Callahan
History of these boxes:
Unfortunately, Annandale is being swamped by donation drop-off boxes from a few legitimate organizations who should know better, but more often from profit seeking individuals who then re-sell the donated items; duping those donating in the process.
These phony boxes rarely reveal any contact information other than to dead end phone announcements. Often signage on the boxes are intentionally marked to deceive, such as one marked Saint Jude Clothing Company with the first two words in bold huge print, and the last two almost too small to read. When commercial property owners discover a box installed, without their permission, they have every right to remove it, regardless of who is sponsoring the box. Property owners may even wish to call scrap metal dealers who will remove the box in exchange for the salvage. There's a lot of metal in these boxes so the salvage makes for a good trade.
Sadly, you can be certain that if one box survives for a few weeks, more will soon spring-up alongside. Additionally, there is a health hazard that comes with these boxes since garbage and environmentally hazardous waste is just as often tossed into, or alongside.
In rapid response to complaints by residents and commercial property owners, Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross requested the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning to, “work on language for a Zoning Ordinance Amendment that would establish regulations for donation drop-off boxes, which are most similar to an accessory structure to an existing principal use.”
On-going efforts are being made to both clean-up Annandale, and revitalize her central business district. Revitalization does not simply include the building of new multi-use structures while clearing out dilapidated ones. Revitalization includes providing the most attractive community, both for the enjoyment of the residents, and to encourage further rebuilding or re-purposing of existing structures.
Donation drop boxes may be allowed on commercial and industrial properties in Fairfax County in accordance with certain Fairfax County regulations. This brochure provides a general overview of the pertinent county regulations and associated penalties which may be imposed for violation of these regulations. Property owners should familiarize themselves with these regulations and consult with the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning, Zoning Administration Division, prior to permitting a donation drop box to be located on their property.
What is a donation drop box?
A donation drop box is any receptacle used for the collection of used clothing, shoes, and small household items donated by the public for redistribution.
What are the penalties for improper use or location of drop boxes?
Failure of a property owner to correctly use or locate a donation drop box on their property may be a violation of the Zoning Ordinance and is punishable by a civil penalty or subject to other legal action
Maintenance and upkeep of donation drop boxes:
Donation drop boxes must be structurally sound, clean, and well-maintained. They should be emptied regularly to prevent overflow of materials onto surrounding areas, which would constitute an outdoor storage zoning violation. It is the property owner’s responsibility for ensuring the upkeep of these boxes.
How is a donation drop box treated under the county’s Zoning Ordinance?
Donation drop boxes are considered an accessory use and are subject to the provisions set forth in Part 1, of Article 10, of the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance. As such they are not permitted as the sole use on a lot, but are only permitted in conjunction with a principal use, such as a shopping center or other commercial or industrial establishment.
What are the penalties for improper use or location of drop boxes?
Failure of a property owner to correctly use or locate a donation drop box on their property may be a violation of the Zoning Ordinance and is punishable by a civil penalty or subject to other legal action.
Are there restrictions on where a donation drop box may be placed on a property?
Yes. Provided there are no proffered or development conditions that would preclude or restrict them, the location of donation drop boxes is subject to the location regulations for accessory storage structures (see Par. 10 of Sect. 10-104 of the Zoning Ordinance). If there are proffered or development conditions, those must be adhered to. In general, donation drop boxes are not permitted to be located anywhere in the front yard on lots which are less than 36,000 square feet in area. On lots larger than that, they may be located in the front yard, but must be set back a distance equal to the minimum front yard requirement specified for the zoning district of the property in which the drop box is located; this is generally 40 feet in most commercial retail zoning districts.
Donation drop boxes may not be located in any transitional screening yard; landscaped open space, including parking lot landscaping; required parking spaces; in the public right- of-way; or, in any location that could impede vehicular or pedestrian circulation, vision, or access within a site. Also, if a donation drop box exceeds eight and one-half feet in height, additional limitations apply to the location of these structures.
If a donation drop box is located under a building awning or canopy, it is considered to be storage and the building would need to have an approved fire protection system (see Sec. 315.3 and 315.3.1 of the Virginia Fire Prevention Code).
A minor site plan is required prior to installation of donation drop boxes that, either individually or cumulatively on a site, are greater than 250 square feet in size.
Complaints May be Directed to:
Department of Code Compliance
703-324-1300, TTY 711
To Submit a confidential complaint online: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fido/complaints/comp_detail.aspx?
For More Information:
Dept. of Planning & Zoning
703-324-1314, TTY 711
To prevent the junking of Annandale, every resident needs to familiarize themselves with county codes, and be prepared to report offenses rapidly and repeatedly to the governing authority. Maybe it is time to join in the effort to take back our community, rather than simply griping about it.
Questions: The Office of Code Compliance: 703-324-1300 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Submit an online confidential complaint at: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fido/complaints/comp_detail.aspx?catid=14&probcode=2
Help Get Rid of the Donation Drop Boxes Placed all over Town
Report Violations Rapidly & Repeatedly
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