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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Donation-Bin Charity Fights Baltimore Permitting Scheme

At risk of losing 30,000 pounds of donated clothes it gathers in Baltimore County, the charity Planet Aid brought a federal complaint to block new zoning regulations.

BALTIMORE (CN) — At risk of losing 30,000 pounds of donated clothes it gathers in Baltimore County, the charity Planet Aid brought a federal complaint to block new zoning regulations.

Planet Aid filed the suit in Baltimore with Daniel Dalton of Dalton & Tomich, a Detroit attorney who helped it back in 2015 to take down unconstitutional zoning regulations in Michigan.

After 13 years of operating donation bins in the Baltimore, Planet Aid says its charity work is being threatened by the county council’s failure to establish permitting regulations before changing the law.

The new scheme was adopted in August 2017, according to the complaint, a month after a county councilman introduced the measure without any period of public comment or any warning to prominent bin operators like Planet Aid.

Of the 485 donation bins Planet Aid had installed since 2004 throughout Baltimore, 260 were operational in August 2017. The charity even maintains a headquarters in Howard County.

It says the council’s minutes do not reveal any reason for the bill, nor commission comment, administration comment, or any rational basis for the bill’s introduction.

The rule change was not slated to take effect until Nov. 18 but Planet Aid says code enforcement officers have been on a citation tear since the summer, issuing tickets to property owners that have Planet Aid donation bins on their grounds.

“One site host, with which Planet Aid has a contract allowing it to place bins on the property, has withdrawn Planet Aid’s donation bins from 45 properties in Baltimore County based on the code enforcement action taken by the County,” the complaint states.

Planet Aid says county attorneys have dismissed the tickets issued to its partners but that the “Code Enforcement Office continues to harass site host of the Planet Aid bins, demanding that they remove the same or face being ticketed.”

“The threatening and harassment by defendant is causing property owners in contract with Planet Aid for placement bins to withdraw their permission for placements, costing Planet Aid a major loss in ability to collect donated clothing,” the complaint states. “The revocation of these sites, and the ability to collect donated clothing, will have devastating impact on the mission of Planet Aid, to benefit families and persons in need.”

What Planet Aid has learned in these months of upheaval is that the county has no process in place to enforce its new permit scheme.

Though a zoning fee sheet makes no mention of such a fee, moreover, Planet Aid says its representatives were told that each permit comes with a $100 “counter fee.”

Founded 20 years ago in Milford, Massachusetts, Planet Aid uses the proceeds of its donation business to development programs in some of the world’s poorest communities.

The charity claims to have learned from two legislative aides that Baltimore’s rule change was not aimed at Planet Aid.

“They said that Planet Aid was compliant with the law,” the complaint states. “They further said that the reason for the bill was to get rid of hundreds of wooden collection bins, placed throughout the county without property owners’ permission and without contact information on the bins.”

In addition to attorney Dalton, the charity is represented by Daniel Cox of Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Arnold Jablon, director of the permits, approvals and inspections for the county, did not respond to a request for comment.

A representative for Planet Aid also did not respond to a request for comment.

Categories / Business, Civil Rights, Government

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