The City of Hamlet is the first municipality in the county to take action against the clothing collection bin companies that have set up donation boxes outside many businesses.
Gail Strickland, who works with code enforcement officers for the city, sent a certified letter to the company Planet Aid (which owns the yellow collection bins) requesting removal of the bins.
The letter stated that the containers were placed without proper documentation from the City of Hamlet Zoning Department or Business License Office. The containers are not a permitted use within the city limits of Hamlet or its extra-territorial zoning jurisdiction.
The letter stated that the boxes must be removed within 10 days of receipt of the letter, which was marked July 10.
“As of today, I have not received notification that the letter has been delivered to the addressee, but it also has not been returned undeliverable,” said Strickland.
Laurinburg Planning and Community Development Director Brandi Deese said that it took some time to get the boxes removed, when Laurinburg decided to oust the boxes.
“The post office will try for a while to serve them with the notification of a certified letter,” said Deese. “If they don’t claim it, the process takes a while.”
Deese said that the City of Laurinburg called a Planet Aid representative in Durham, and that Planet Aid requested that the city discuss possible rezoning to allow the boxes.
“We granted them that, but both our planning board and our city council denied a rezoning request,” said Deese. “Then we sent them a letter informing them that the request was denied and that they had to remove the boxes. After that, it took about two weeks for them to pick up all the boxes. Now we are dealing with a new company that has set out bins - called Go Green for the Cause. We’re working on getting those removed now.”
Hamlet councilwoman Abbie Covington, who owns a property where one of the Planet Aid bins showed up, called the company and demanded that it be removed.
“I called the number on the front of the box,” said Covington. “It took about 15 phone calls for them to take action, but the last time I called I told them if they didn’t remove the box then I’d remove it myself.”
Bobbi Williams, a community member who has been an advocating the removal of the boxes, was “thrilled” that Hamlet has made the first move.
“I’m proud of the city for taking a stand,” said Williams. “This is just great. Hopefully the next to go will be the blue boxes (clothing collection bins for Missions of Hope, NC).”
Controversy has continued to grow around the boxes, because large profits are made from the sale of the donated clothing — but none of the money stays in the county and local thrift stores and charitable groups have noticed that their donations are going down.
Local government officials have been studying ways to regulate the donation boxes, in particular looking at the (blue) Missions of Hope, NC and (yellow) Planet Aid collection bins, which are marked as charitable organizations, but both groups have been under fire for deceptive advertising.
A representative from Planet Aid was not available to comment.
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.