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The Competitive Donation Bin Industry

Last week, Dalton & Tomich founding attorney Dan Dalton was quoted in a Detroit News article that provides an in-depth look at the competitive – and increasingly cutthroat – donated textile industry in Michigan.

The article discusses the recent tensions between non-profits such as Goodwill, which have long accepted donations at their thrift stores, and newer non-profits like Dalton & Tomich client Planet Aid, which collect donations at donation bins placed in commercial parking lots. The increased number of donation bins in recent years has increased competition among charities for donations. In an effort to maximize its own donations, Goodwill sent letters to property owners threatening to report them as “offenders” to the Michigan Attorney General for allowing Planet Aid’s donation bins on their property. These threats were made even though allowing donation bins in no way violates Michigan law.

The article also addresses how many Michigan municipalities, with encouragement from Goodwill and other older charities, have adopted ordinances that severely restrict or even completely prohibit donation bins within their jurisdiction. Dalton & Tomich has successfully assisted Planet Aid in filing several lawsuits against Michigan municipalities challenging the constitutionality of such ordinances. In the last two weeks, Dalton & Tomich attorneys convinced two federal judges to prevent the enforcement of two separate ordinances that prohibit donation bins. On April 29, 2014, Judge Janet Neff from the Western District of Michigan granted Planet Aid’s request for a temporary restraining order, preventing the city of St. Johns from enforcing an ordinance that bans all donation bins within the city’s limits. On April 16, 2014, Judge Denise Page Hood from the Eastern District of Michigan granted Planet Aid’s request for a temporary restraining order against Ypsilanti Township, which recently decided to enforce a longstanding but rarely enforced ordinance regulating accessory uses for the sole purpose of excluding donation bins.

These recent decisions should serve as a warning to other municipalities contemplating similar ordinances–it is unacceptable to ban donation bins in order to protect other charities. We will be sure to keep everyone updated as litigation progresses in these two matters.

Dalton & Tomich attorneys have extensive experience representing organizations in challenging discriminatory actions of municipalities. If you or your organization has experienced similar discrimination, please contact us to discuss your matter.

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