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City plans to target donation boxes

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Evanston officials have drafted an ordinance that would force clothing donation box owners to get licenses and fine landowners $2,500 if an unlicensed box is found on their property.

But the penalty against property owners in the ordinance, as drafted by Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar, came in for criticism from some aldermen at Monday night's Administration and Public Works Committee meeting.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said that in some cases property owners never gave permission for the donation boxes, which just appeared on their lots.

And Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said there should be some grace period or lieniency in enforcement.

The proposed ordinance would also allow just one donation box at each shopping center — which would lead to a dramatic reduction in the total number of boxes at shopping centers like the Howard-Hartrey center.

The draft ordinance makes no provision for situations in which the volume of traffic at a center might make a single box inadequate to meet donor demand.

It also appears to bars the placement of boxes at individual businesses not located in a shopping center, although it would permit them at schools, churches and buildings owned and operated by not-for-profit organizations.

At least Evanston-based non-profit, the Evanston North Shore YWCA, has donation boxes at some individual business locations which apparently would be outlawed by the ordinance as currently drafted.

The city would impose an annual license fee of $150 on each box owner, plus a $75 fee for each box. Non-profits would have to apply for the license, but for them the fees would be waived.

The donation boxes, which can be purchased new for $1,000 or less from metal fabricators, have been the subject of media reports indicating that many are operated by for-profit companies rather than charities and that much of the material donated ends up being sold overseas rather than redistributed to people in this country.

But Farrar, in a memo to aldermen, said that court rulings on constitutional challenges have made it inadvisable for the city to attempt to limit the boxes to use only by non-profit groups.

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