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New Port Richey moves to restrict donation bins

NEW PORT RICHEY — Outrage over clothing donation bins turned blighted, illegal dumping sites has led to efforts to crack down on property owners who let them get out of hand.

New Port Richey City Council members, in a 3-1 vote Tuesday, approved the first reading of an ordinance to regulate the placement and standards for donations bins in the city. It came after they saw pictures presented by Development Director Lisa Fierce of bins surrounded by junk and old furniture. Fierce showed pictures of one bin that, over the course of a day, ended up with dumped material around it, likening the problem to graffiti; once it appears, more often follows.

"Basically the problem grew in a very short period of time," she said of the site.

The new ordinance would place numerous restrictions on donation bins, piggybacking on an ordinance already established in Pasco County, Fierce said. The city ordinance would require written approval from the landowner to place a bin, plus submission of a site plan showing the bin location, and information on when the bin will be emptied and how it will be maintained. The ordinance would prohibit bins on public rights-of-way or easements.

Bin doors must face away from the public right-of-way and must be locked. The ordinance also bans displaying or storing donated materials. And bins must display signs that say illegal dumping is not permitted. Property owners will be cited for violations under the ordinance.

The effort emerged at the request of Deputy Mayor Jeff Starkey, who has long expressed outrage over illegal dumping throughout Pasco County, calling it absurd that anyone would abandon furniture outside a clothing donation bin.

"They just don't work in New Port Richey," Starkey said of the donation bins.

The lone vote against the ordinance came from Mayor Rob Marlowe, but not because he is against the restrictions.

"I'd rather ban them," the mayor said after learning from the city attorney that was an option. Plenty of donation sites are available that are better monitored, he said.

In other news, the City Council, acting as New Port Richey's Community Redevelopment Agency, took a key step toward construction of an anticipated Aldi grocery store at U.S. 19 and Main Street.

The CRA board agreed to sell a small, city-owned piece of land at 6131 River Road to developer A.G. Development Group Inc. for $35,500.

The sliver of land was needed to round out development requirements for the 21,998-square-foot Aldi and other redevelopment on property that holds the long-vacant former Suncoast News building at the busy intersection.