More apartments coming near BioVectra

Ryan Ross
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More people may be moving in next to the BioVectra chemical plant as a developer goes ahead with plans to build two more apartment buildings on neighbouring land.

The new development comes on the heels of an Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission appeal BioVectra launched to have the city’s decision to grant a permit for construction of an apartment building next to the plant in West Royalty reversed.

Coun. Rob Lantz is Charlottetown’s planning and heritage committee chair and confirmed a developer is going through the process of getting the permits needed for two more buildings near the plant.

“They initially had a plan for more than one unit,” he said.

After months of proceedings, IRAC ruled against BioVectra because it said the city followed all the proper procedures and code guidelines in granting the permit, but also criticized the city for not taking public safety issues into consideration throughout the approval process.

Throughout the proceedings BioVectra said the plant was safe, but having an apartment building about 25 metres away put residents at an unnecessary risk if there is an accident.

The company’s president Ron Keefe even went as far as to compare it to building a prison next to an elementary school.

And although it did not have the proper occupancy permit, the developer rented apartments in the building while the proceedings were underway, which led to the city telling residents they were living there at their own risk.

But with the latest development, Lantz said IRAC found the city followed the rules in granting a building permit the first time and will have to again.

“There’s not really any grounds for us to deny one,” he said.

Lantz said there is no chance the city will rezone the area because of the IRAC ruling and he added the city thinks the commission made a lot of contradictory statements.

“We really really believe they overstepped their bounds in some of the criticisms and in many cases it doesn’t make much sense, but they have put us in a bit of a predicament because we have to go in order not to be subject to further appeals, we’re going to have to go above and beyond perhaps some of the health and safety considerations on these next two buildings.”

The developer has agreed to a risk assessment report and an emergency response plan, which would clear the way for their building permits, he said.

Lantz said the developer has the right to build next to the BioVectra plant because it fits into the permitted use for the property and the city has to follow established bylaws.

“We don’t use arbitrary discretion when we approve things.” 

He added Paramount Construction should have all the permits it needs before the end of the month, including the occupancy permit for the existing building.

Mervin Jay of Paramount Construction was contacted but declined to comment and attempts were made to reach BioVectra president Ron Keefe, but were unsuccessful.


Organizations: Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission, Paramount Construction

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Gerry
    April 12, 2011 - 16:39

    Aside from the apartment dwellers, why would anyone want to own or build a single family dwelling near an industrial park? It appears that the sub-divisions surrounding the industrial park are growing at a faster rate than the park. Obviously, the zoning and expansion of neighoubrhoods evolving within the Grace Babptist sub-division area, Upton Park area and the more recent residential area runninng parallel to the by-pass (Sandalwood?) did not present any cause for concern. You would be hard pressed to purchase a home in any one of these areas for less than $200,000. Surely to God, the homeowners have enough sense to do their homework, or not.

  • Jerry
    April 12, 2011 - 15:29

    We desperately need competent municipal leadership in Charlottetown. Clifford Lee, the councillors and the city's management team and senior employees are sadly lacking in competence. Folks, the OFFICIAL PLAN IS FLAWED because the zoning for this property overlooked the public safety issues. Sure, the city is following its planning regulations but those regulations are wrong, so it's asinine to duck behind the plan and state that you're just following the rules. Where is the common sense here? Obviously the city needs to FIRE ITS LEGAL ADVISORS and get some experts with competence here. The existing apartment building should be torn down and any other conflicting developments within the danger zone should be denied. And Grace Baptist School should be relocated. Check out: "It must be the decision of the Commission to deny this appeal," the decision reads. "However, this decision should not be regarded as an endorsement of the City's actions regarding public safety, the zoning of the property, or the siting of the apartment building."

  • ashley
    April 12, 2011 - 13:06

    Honestly, If people are willing to take the chance by living in these apartment complexes, then why should the builder stop? He is meeting all the legal recruitment's to build the properties, and has people lining up to move into them. Who is the 'stupid' one here, the builder making the money, or the tendents who are moving in knowing full well the possible risks? If people are so concerned about it, don't move in there and then the builder would not put any more properties up, it's as simple as that!

  • Whatever
    April 12, 2011 - 10:03

    The City of Charlottetown issued a building permit based on the requirements of the National Building Code and the National Fire Protection Association codes. I am not a chemical engineer, I am not an expert in fire prevention, I do not command a hazmat team, or anything of that nature. That having been said, I have to put my trust in the people who are experts in these fields, the people who wrote these codes. The National Fire Protection Association codes NFPA [Fire Code] and NFPA 30 [Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code] were followed when this permit was issued. Experts were called during the appeal process and IRAC decided that the appeal was denied on the basis of evidence presented and a thorough review of applicable law. Biovectra has no right to impose on a neighbouring property a standard higher than what is required of them in the NFPA codes. Biovectra is, however, free to install gas detection, flame detection and other safety standards on its own property to further reduce any risks. If they think that their property is at risk of hurting others, than it is up to them to rectify their issues, not their neighbours

      April 14, 2011 - 04:50

      National Building Code (NBC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards have nothing whatsoever with WHERE you build. They only mandate the way it is constructed, what materials, etc. This is a planning failure by Charlottetown and a legal failure by its legal representatives. They are hiding behind a faulty document - the official plan - which doesn't take into account public safety and setback distances from hazardous materials storage. NFPA and NBC have nothing relating to setback distances. Both will tell you how to build a structure but won't prevent you from putting it right next to a nuclear reactor, or an oil refinery, a propane depot or in a flood plain. Would you put an NBC and NFPA approved elementary school right next door to an NBC and NFPA approved penitentiary housing pedophiles? It's the same concept - hazard reduction. Unfortunately the Charlottetown official plan isn't worth the paper it's written on, nor the map that accompanies it. It was a compromise document arising from amalgamation and now the city has NOTHING to base its development policies on due to the continuous political intereference by councilors and developers wanting to make a quick buck (such as this one). Time for Charlottetown to do the right thing and admit that this is unsafe development, rezone the entire property in question to light industrial with stipulation that apartments cannot go within a setback distance of the chemical plant. Pay the developer for his materials for that existing building and then order it torn down.

  • Bill
    April 12, 2011 - 08:41

    What is wrong with people here? We have a potentially dangerous chemical plant, who themselves are warning people of the potential dangers, and people seem to be lining up to live in the closest possible facinity to the plant. I am aware that the potential for an incident is very remote, but it is possible that in the future after all of these court cases to prove that the developer has all the right to build and conduct business on the property is over with, there could be hundreds of people living next to a huge explosion. What would the city and the developer think and say then, at least the operators of the plant can have a clear conscience from the fact that at least they warned citizens that a catastrophic even could take place, and it COULD take hundreds of lives. I don't think that legal issues should be considered here, I think moral issues should take front and center.

  • Opinions Matter
    April 12, 2011 - 08:41

    This goes to show that money is more important than people!!

  • It's About Time
    April 12, 2011 - 08:07

    Finally. Put this entire thing to rest. BioVectra should now be required to pay the legal bills of both the City of Charlottetown and Mr. Jay. I can only imagine how much taxpayers' money has gone into paying the legal bills of the City for fighting this battle. Mr. Jay's legal fees are, no doubt, a huge amount as well. Mr. Keefe should now put his money where his mouth is and pay up.

  • bye the way
    April 12, 2011 - 07:23

    The B.V.tanks remain the problem....there is an elementary School 100 metres away ....downwind from prevailing west winds.

    April 12, 2011 - 06:53

    This is truly only believable in a tiny little backwater like PEI. Hey, there only tenants, they have no power or money. What do they want anyway for themselves and children. Next thing you know they'll be asking for decent wages and safe places to live. Truly astounding. Here you have the totally unusual situation where both IRAC and the toxic plant owner saying this is not safe and what do we see - damn the torpedo's build the apartments. CRIMINAL!! Here is the Minister of Environment. Do we have a provincial government or just an association of developers and PNP scam artists running the place. I think the later.

  • Sean Murphy
    April 12, 2011 - 06:37

    the City has to follow its established by-laws.... until they decide not to. Anyone who moves into these apartments knows what they're getting into.

  • stop the insanity
    April 12, 2011 - 06:03

    Charlottetown needs to stop this ASAP. That chemical plant can't be moved - it's too expensive and it was there first. Just own up to the mistake, rezone the properties all light industrial and pay the developer for his materials for building the current apartment building AND THEN TEAR THE FRIGGING THING DOWN ! What are you waiting for, a Sunrise Propane disaster ????????? Does Charlottetown City Hall really want to see the blackened charred corpses of those apartment tenants being carried out in body bags after an accident happens? Really ????