In spite of a last-minute plea from the representative of a local church, the Geneva City Council voted 6-1 Monday on new regulations for collection bins or "donation boxes," depending on what you want to call them.
Linda Williams, representing Fox Valley Presbyterian Church, apologized for bringing up her concerns as the City Council was poised for a vote, but said the new ordianance would have the "unintended consequence" of preventing the church from using a paper recycling bin that has been on the church property since 2007.
According to the ordinance, collection bins must be located adjacent to the main structure of whatever site serves as host—whether it's a commercial business or not-for-profit agency.
The regulations were proposed in part to make sure such bins don't become eyesores in parking lots throughout Geneva. Agencies that regularly use collection bins include non-for-profit groups such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army as well as for-profit recyclers, such as West-Chicago-based USAgain, which recycles textiles.
"The ordinance is like using a multipurpose insecticide to kill a fly," Williams said. She said there was no place adjacent to the church where a collection bin might be located, and asked the council to consider a revision.
Community Development Director Dick Untch said the new ordinance specifies that donation bins must be adjacent to a main building so that management keeps the bin "in mind's eye." Untch said staff saw many examples of scofflaws including bins at some schools outside Geneva that were kept in "frankly embarrassing condition" that included piles of donated items around the bin "that looked pretty much like a garbage heap."
Fifth Ward Alderman Craig Maladra agreed that sterner regulations are needed and argued against an 11th-hour change.
"I appreciate what the church does, but I know for a fact that’s not what’s done all around town," he said. "The whole ordinance is about control, and I feel we have to avoid exceptions."
The ordinance requires a $250 permit application for any collection bin. It also says the property and the contractor are jointly responsible for the maintenance of the bins or can be subject to fines.
City Attorney Charles Radovich advised that if the City Council wanted to amend the ordinance, the approval process would have to start again at the Plan Commission level, then go through the City Council Committee of the Whole before returning to the full council for a vote.
Second Ward Alderman Don Cummings voted against the ordinance after hearing Williams' concerns Monday night. Five other aldermen—Richard Marks, Dean Kilburg, Dorothy Flanagan, Ron Singer and Maladra—voted in favor of it. Sam Hill recused himself because he is a member of the church in question, and three other aldermen—Chuck Brown, Dawn Vogelsberg and Ralph Dantino—were absent. Mayor Kevin Burns was asked to vote because a majority of the full 10-member City Council was required, and the ordinance passed 6-1.
Untch said the city would begin implementation immediately by informing property owners that they need to apply for a permit. If the city does not hear back by Dec. 1, it will contact owners again with a notice that the permit must be in place by Jan. 1. Owners who are unresponsive will be called before an adjudications officer on or after Jan. 11.
Permits must be renewed annually on or about Jan. 1.