Council Clashes Over Church Donation Bins

On June 24, Councilors debated at length about the petition of a local church owner to have donation bins on his property.

Council voted against this request by a tally of 7-3.

Pastor Denis Hernandez from Ministerio Monte de Sion (Mount Zion Ministry) at 108-144 Spring St. spoke before Council to request a new open-air parking license for the church property. The church owners want to use the space to house donation bins as well as trucks that can transport donations. The new license would not affect the church parking available for parishioners.

The item had been put forth for a Council vote by the Committee on Community and Business Development, which recommended favorable action. The license would be subject to general restrictions, including compliance with all local zoning ordinances. Had it been approved by Council, the next step would have been for the request to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and possibly the Planning Board.

However, the request gave pause to several Councilors due to its vagueness.

Hernandez wasn’t able to answer Council’s specific questions regarding the donation bins, possibly due to a language barrier. He couldn’t tell Council who would be donating, what would be donated and where donations would be going.

Councilor John Hanlon was hesitant and wanted assurance that the Clerk or the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) would be able to inspect all donation bins in the city.

“We had major problems before with people filling up containers and shipping them out,” he said. “I’d like to trust people all the time, but I want to be able to say we know exactly what’s going on.”

Councilwoman Rosa DiFlorio, who chairs the Committee for Community and Business Development, called the request “too broad.”

“I’m not against the church, donating or charity, but unfortunately it’s just not the right place for it,” she said. “We don’t know what’s going to be there. Is there going to be food? Are we going to have rats? There’s nothing that specifies what’s going to be there.”

City Clerk Sergio Cornelio said that Council could write specific conditions into the license.

“Put some type of limitation on it,” he said. “You can state there is no broken-down vehicles, maybe just one or two box trucks. You can say not before 8 a.m. and not past 8 p.m. Those are conditions that are within your jurisdiction to do.”

Councilor McLaughlin supported approving the center with specific guidelines attached.

“These types of centers are important for donation purposes, especially when a country gets hit with a storm,” he said. 

Councilor Wayne Matewsky mentioned local apartments and hotels that could consider donation bins and box trucks an eyesore. 

“This is something that should go to the Planning or Zoning Board before we vote on it,” he said.

But Councilor Michael Marchese felt that wasn’t necessary.

“Forget about the Zoning Board, let’s make a decision right here,” he said. “We rezoned this area recently. We shouldn’t be putting that crap there. A church is one thing. I wouldn’t welcome this into the city of Everett.”

Councilor Fred Capone motioned to send the request to the Zoning Board of Appeals as well as the Planning Board, but only himself and Councilors Hanlon, Matewsky and Napolitano voted in favor of this.

Next, the Council took a vote to approve the request outright. The request was voted down by Council 7-3, with only Councilors Fred Capone, Michael McLaughlin, and Peter Napolitano voting in favor of it. (Councilor John McKinnon was absent from voting, though Clerk Cornelio noted that he had opposed the request in committee.)

“I’m disappointed to see the way the vote went,” said Councilor McLaughlin in a follow-up interview with Independent. “You can’t say that you want to help others and then deny a location in which donations are collected.

“I absolutely support putting regulations on such a license,” he continued. “The license should have been granted with stipulations and regulations so that it could be respectfully handled.”

•Church reaction

Ministerio Monte de Sion will be eligible to present their request again in one year.

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