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City Council to consider biolab ordinances, amendments

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Request mayor to create Biosafety Advisory Committee

Last week’s City Council subcommittee meeting was proof that plans to build a Life Science building at Suffolk Downs will continue to be a heated issue in the city.

At this Monday night’s council meeting, two separate motions sought to address the regulation of research and development facilities.

The HYM Investment Group is planning to build 550,000 square feet of life sciences research space in the early stages of the Suffolk Downs development near Beachmont Station. A 280,000-square-foot life sciences building could be ready for occupancy by the end of 2024, according to CEO Tom O’Brien of HYM.  The regulation and permitting for what goes into the buildings is dependent on the tenant, O’Brien said, adding that the buildings are being constructed with no single tenant secured at the moment.

The motion by City Council President Gerry Visconti and Ward 1 Councillor Joanne McKenna seeks to amend the zoning ordinance of the city so that the two highest levels of Biolevel use, Biolevel-3 and Biolevel-4, are not permitted in the city. Visconti referred the motion to a public hearing on June 27.

Councillor-at-Large Dan Rizzo’s motion requested that Mayor Brian Arrigo create a Revere Biosafety Advisory Committee under the jurisdiction of the Board of Health. The committee would include the public health director, city solicitor, police and fire chiefs, inspectional services director and the planning and community development director. According to Rizzo, the board would be charged to investigate, evaluate and amend the definition and/or addition of Research and Development/Laboratory Life Sciences Labs and related uses in the city’s zoning ordinances.

“The reason I submitted this was to address the obvious potential usage of a biolab at Suffolk Downs,” said Rizzo. “The problem, I think, we’re going to have as a City Council going forward is, when a vote was taken back in 2018 on the overlay district [for Suffolk Downs], the overlay district gave that use, biolab … by right. They do not need a special permit from us.”

Rizzo said the research he has done shows the best way to control biolab issues going forward is through the Board of Health. “That overlay district granted them, by right, to do whatever it is that they want as it is currently defined,” said Rizzo, “so I believe, going forward, that we should potentially set up a board like this that would have some teeth with regards to what is being done with that particular usage.”

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