Town taking aim at clothing bins

A clothing bin in the TJ Maxx shopping center was overfilled with clothes this week. (Credit: Grant Parpan)
A clothing bin in the TJ Maxx shopping center was overfilled with clothes this week. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Riverhead Town Board members may have had their fill of the overstuffed clothing donation bins that dot shopping centers across town.

At their work session last Thursday, board members discussed enacting a law that could require $100 annual permits for clothing drop-off bins, would limit their use by nonprofit organizations and would impose stiff fines when bins overflow. 

The proposal was drawn up by deputy town attorney Bill Duffy and board members eventually decided to send the issue to the town’s code revision advisory committee for recommendation.

Mr. Duffy said he modeled his proposal on a law recently passed in Brookhaven Town. Similar legislation is also under consideration in Southampton Town, where the use of such bins by for-profit companies — which then sell the donated clothing — has been deemed “deception” by The Southampton Press.

Riverhead officials say there have been cases of clothing donation bins being placed in shopping centers without the permission of shopping center owners.

“Some of these bins have no names on them,” said Councilman John Dunleavy, indicating that he supports the permit requirement. “I agree 100 percent with this legislation,” he said last Thursday.

Supervisor Sean Walter said he was “fine with it.”

Mr. Dunleavy said there are bins in Riverhead Town with clothing spilling out onto the ground and that people sometimes go into the bins and pull clothes out.

Mr. Duffy’s proposal would only allow nonprofit organizations to have donation bins, and each one would either have to appear on an approved site plan for the property or be approved by the town’s Architectural Review Board. The measure would also require an affidavit from the property owner authorizing the bin to be placed on the property.

The law would fine operators who allow items to accumulate outside the bins and who do not have permits. First-time violators would face fines of $250 to $1,000 or 15 days in jail. Second-time offenders would be fined between $1,000 and $3,000 and third-time offenders up to $5,000.

If a violation isn’t rectified within 10 days, the proposed law would allow the town to impound the bin without notice and either sell or destroy it.

Representatives of several charitable organizations with clothing bins in the town did not respond to requests for comment.

Councilman George Gabrielsen said he thinks the $100 annual fee is too high and Mr. Walter said he doesn’t think churches should have to pay a fee.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who chairs the code revision committee, suggested the proposal go before that committee before the Town Board takes it up.

“I don’t want to wait a year and a half for code revision,” Mr. Walter said.

Ms. Giglio called his remark an “insult” and said the committee has made timely recommendations on many proposals. But she pointed out that it has a lot of issues on its plate and that if the town wants to make the issue a top priority, the recommendation can be made in a “couple of weeks.”

Board members agreed to put the measure before the code revision committee. They are expected to discuss it at this morning’s work session as well.