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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Gross encourages property owners to remove unwanted donation boxes

A donation in a corner of the Choong Hwa Woon restaurant on John Marr Drive in Annandale.

Concerned about the proliferation of donation drop-off boxes sprouting up all over privately owned parking lots, Mason District SupervisorPenny Gross has written to commercial property owners advising that they have the right to remove boxes that have been placed without their permission. In Mason District, the boxes often become magnets for trash.

“I have received many constituent complaints about donation drop-off boxes and their blight on the community,” Gross writes in the Jan. 21 letter. “At my request, the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning is working on language for a zoning ordinance amendment that would establish regulations for donation drop-off boxes.”

“Dumping unwanted material at donation drop-off boxes creates a public health issue and violates county zoning regulations,” the letter states. “In addition, many boxes are not well built nor maintained in a safe condition, which facilitates mold growth and rodent infestation.”

Many of the boxes lack identifying information. And while they claim to support charities, the donating clothing is sold for a profit to the textile recycling industry, as this blog reported in April 2013, when Gross announced plans to explore tighter zoning regulations for donation boxes. Most of the clothing left in donation boxes is shipped overseas or used in the manufacture of car seats, insulation, or other products.

Instead of using donation boxes, she urges people to dispose of unwanted, reusable items with legitimate organizations like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Treasure Trove.

Under the zoning ordinance, donation boxes are not permitted on the front yard of any lot less than 36,000 square feet. On larger lots, they must meet certain set-back requirements, which is generally 40 feet.

They are not allowed in any transitional screening yard, landscaped open space, required parking space, public right-of-way, or any location that would impede on-site circulation or access. They must be structurally sound, clean, well-maintained, and emptied regularly.

A property owner with a drop box that doesn’t comply with the zoning ordinance could be subject to a civil penalty or other legal action.


  1. I also think the box should state if the items are going to a for profit and it should have to clearly state what the profit is for. Thank you Supervisor Gross you got this one right. I would love to see all of these gone. Gross can you now please deal with the houses being hoarded with people.

  2. Finally, some action to clean this "Mason Mess" up.

  3. great except the county never enforces anything on the books so in the end, this won't do anything.

  4. What does "empty regularly" mean? Is there no official time? This codes are just to open ended.

  5. It doesn't matter how "closed ended", finite, explicit, detailed, exacting, or spelled out the codes are; Gross will not effect them and Compliance will not enforce them. That is except in the case where a citizen may have criticized or challenged Gross - then those persons can expect to see a SWAT team and/or a Sheriff at the front door with bogus code violation issues and a 10 hour notice for a court date. This is how it works in Pennydale.