City puts PODS ordinance in place after union debate

Published: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 2:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 3:24 p.m.

More than two years after the issue first surfaced, the Gainesville City Commission has approved a law regulating the use of portable storage units in residential neighborhoods.

The seemingly mundane matter sparked debate at Thursday’s meeting over the potential impact on union labor of language added to the proposed law at the request of United Parcel Service and other package delivery companies.

It would have allowed the companies to bring the storage units temporarily into residential neighborhoods during the holiday season to make deliveries via golf cart.

Commissioner Lauren Poe raised an objection to that at the April 18 meeting and again on Thursday. Poe said his concerns are that the delivery work often is done by temporary seasonal workers instead of by full-time unionized employees.

At the May 2 meeting, Poe said he was concerned that the city was “facilitating a process by which a unionized company would be able to use non-unionized labor to perform the same function” and would “diminish the quality of employment” in the city.

When Poe first raised the issue at the April 18 meeting, no other commissioners joined him in voting against the proposed ordinance over the request from parcel delivery companies.

But at the May 2 meeting, the vote to remove the portion of the ordinance allowing the companies to use portable storage units passed 4-3, with Poe, Mayor Craig Lowe, Susan Bottcher and Yvonne Hinson-Rawls in support and Todd Chase, Randy Wells and Thomas Hawkins in dissent.

With that section removed, the full ordinance passed 6-1, with Chase in dissent.

Chase said the use of golf carts to deliver packages instead of larger trucks was in line with the commission’s goal of cutting down on vehicle emissions. He said he also believed the commission was setting a “dangerous precedent” by getting involved in the relationship between an employer and a union.

Terry Fitzpatrick, a UPS representative, said under the collective bargaining agreement the work is offered first to union employees interested in making extra money during the holidays. Then, temporary seasonal employees are brought in, she said.

The new city ordinance requires that storage units such as PODS and roll-off Dumpsters be removed from residential neighborhoods within 30 days.

There are exceptions for construction work and the aftermath of natural disasters. The city also put in place minimum setback requirements from property lines and limits on the size of the storage units or Dumpsters.

Those not complying with the ordinance will face a code violation.

The Forest Ridge/Henderson Heights Neighborhood Association brought the request for the regulations to city government more than two years ago.

Juanita Casagrande, with the neighborhood association, said some residents took issue with a storage unit that sat on a family’s driveway for at least three months. When they went to City Code Enforcement, they found there were no regulations in place to enforce, she said.

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