|Donation boxes on John Marr Drive in Annandale.|
The new rules, which take effect immediately, are needed because the boxes – which are supposed to be for old clothes and shoes – often attract litter and have become dumping grounds for old furniture, mattresses, and other junk.
Under the zoning amendment, donation boxes:
- Cannot be larger than seven feet tall, six feet wide, and six feet long.
- Are limited to two boxes per property in an area not to exceed a total of 120 square feet.
- Must have written permission from the property owner.
- Must be subject to regular collections and must be emptied within 48 hours following a property owner’s request.
- Must not have junk or trash left outside the boxes for more than 24 hours.
- Must have the following information listed on the outside of the box – name and telephone number of the owner/operator, name of the party responsible for removing donated items, the kind of items sought for donation, and a statement prohibiting liquids and dumping.
- May only be placed on certain commercial properties, such as shopping centers, that are 40,000 square feet or larger, and in a residential district on lots with a non-residential principal use, like a church, or in conjunction with approval for another use by a special permit, special exception, or proffered rezoning and only when shown on an approved development plan.
- Must be screened from view from the first-story window of any neighboring dwelling.
- Cannot interfere with vehicular or pedestrian circulation.
- Must be weather proof and constructed of painted metal, plastic, or other noncombustible material.
During the board discussion, Mason Supervisor Penny Gross, who had long advocated for the removal of donation boxes, said, “For a lot of people this was a no brainer. They just want to get rid of the boxes.”
Fairfax County Planning and Zoning staff have been directed to inform property owners, donation box operators, and business groups about the new rules.
During the public hearing before the board voted to restrict donation boxes, Janet Newport of the Barcroft Mews Homeowner Association in Mason District said her community supports the new rules but expressed some concerns about whether the restrictions could be interpreted as violating free speech.
Supervisor Jeff McKay (Lee) raised some questions about how the new rules would be enforced – and whether the enforcement process could be sped up.
A member of the Department of Code Compliance staff said a property owner would be given at least 30 days to comply if found to be in violation of the rules. Supervisor Gerry Hyland (Mount Vernon) argued that violators should be given less time to comply because these boxes can be easily moved, unlike permanent structures.