BioVectra loses IRAC neighbour case again

Nigel Armstrong
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BioVectra plant in the West Royalty Industrial Park.

Once again the City of Charlottetown has been successful in deflecting warnings from a chemical company to keep apartment development away from danger.

The Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission today issued its decision in the matter of BioVectra versus the City of Charlottetown. The battle relates to building and other permits given by the city to allow apartment buildings to be constructed beside the BioVectra plant in the West Royalty Industrial Park.

Testimony in this round of hearings was held in June, then July of this year. Part of the testimony looked at a report from an earlier IRAC case on the same sort of issues back in 2010.

The report, written by Rem Gaade, looked at the risk of the development both built and proposed around BioVectra. Gaade is a former chief of hazardous materials or HazMat,  and special operations for the Toronto Fire Department.

That apartment development proposed in 2010 had an "unreasonable level of risk," said Gaade, and was "not sensible."

He made recommendations and the new 2012 development meets those safety recommendations, the commission was told.

"While the location of the apartment buildings in relation to BioVectra's Hillstrom facility is not an ideal situation, the fact that the apartment buildings meet or exceed code requirements and follow the applicable safety recommendations set out in the Gaade report satisfy the Commission that the proposed development is acceptable in principle," said Wednesday's decision.

Gaade also recommended the development include restrictive covenants so that tenants know they are beside an industrial complex that runs 24 hours per day and can't file nuisance complaints. No such requirement is part of this new development and the commission won't go there. It's not a matter affecting the convenience, health or safety of residents, said the commission.

That dependence on the 2010 Gaade report was an issue during the hearings for BioVectra, which wanted a new risk assessment report.

"At the hearing, Counsel for BioVectra emphasized most strongly that the City initially took a very firm approach of requiring an independent risk assessment and then retreated from that approach," said Wednesday's ruling. " The Commission commends the City for taking up the clarion call for a firm approach to risk assessment and the importance of public safety within land use planning.  While to some it might seem that the City did retreat from its initial firm position, the Commission is of the view that the City utilized a pragmatic approach in this particular case by making good use of existing reports filed at the previous appeal."

BioVectra also objected to the city allowing a road into the apartment development.

The city paved about 200 feet connecting Upton Road to the private road of the developers without permission from the province. It was a windfall for the developers, said BioVectra.

Just good planning, said the commission in its decision. The stub road of the city allows better flow of nearby industrial vehicles and light apartment traffic entering Upton Road, said the commission.


Organizations: Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission, Toronto Fire Department.That

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • think twice before renting
    September 27, 2012 - 18:35

    The guy from toronto hazmat is totally right "That apartment development had an unreasonable level of risk, and was not sensible". Anyone in their right mind who would rent a apartment next to a biopharmaceutical plant needs their head examined and seriously putting there familys lives at risk everyday. I hope the day never comes that we see the guardian headline apartment building blown up by chemical plant

  • Bindy
    September 27, 2012 - 18:29

    If Biovectra didn't want buildings to go up so close to the plant, shouldn't they have purchased that land so no one could build there?

  • Pipefitter
    September 27, 2012 - 16:09

    To build this close to this plant is absolutely insane, I have done pipe work in this plant and well, lets just say an accident will happen someday. This place produces compounds that measured by minute amounts will kill you and at the very least will cause cancer. These processes are vented to the atmosphere, and although scrubbed, you have to wonder if its %100 effective. To top it off their reactors (where the processes occur) all have relief vents piped to the atmosphere, if something over pressures then a burst disc pops and that is released to the atmosphere.....UNSCRUBBED, hope your windows are closed if that ever happens and the wind is blowing the right way. My guess is all these appeals is just BioVectra's way of washing their hands if an accident happens, and I don't blame them. In my opinion anyone living behind the RCMP barracks are to close to the action. I would not want to live within a 10KM circle of their plants, let alone right beside the plant they are emptying the tanks and taking the waste to Quebec to be incinerated, and well we just had a leaky hose at Irving propane, what if it happens here and little Johnny or Suzy are out playing.......

  • don
    September 27, 2012 - 11:43

    if BioVectra closes and moves will the city pay the workers wages they will lose? and if the close due to the brain deadness of irac and the city i do not blaime them. but the city got the buildings up but loses 100+ jobs plus taxs etc. i hope irag and the city are happy if anything goes wrong. the people that rents better SUE the city and irac for all health bills as BioVectra is NOT at fault. they warned everyone but no one hears so to anyone the lives in the apsartments i have no pitty for you at all.besides you can't sue BioVectra as they warned you all and the city so they have coverd there butts

  • Sylvia
    September 27, 2012 - 10:42

    I would never move into any of these apartments. It's obvious that councillors in Charlottetown don't use very good judgment, IRAC is the same, that P.E.I. government doesn't know what they're doing, and that developers really don't care as long as they make lots of money. Oh yes, people, we're in very good hands with all these brilliant people. I think common sense has taken a permanent vacation.

  • gina
    September 27, 2012 - 07:56

    I would never consider renting a unit there, who would? Aside from the risk from the chemical plant, there are maybe fumes from time to time, and on top of that trafic noise must be hard to live with, -----------but to each his own, - if somethings happens, at least Bio-Vectra kan have a clean conscience.

  • Steel Feather
    September 27, 2012 - 06:52

    This argument has been going on for quite a while. I may have missed it, but what is BioVectra's argument: that they produce too much noise, that a chemical spill cause toxic fumes to invade the building, or that an explosion might impact it. If it's the latter two, why was the plant built the same distance away from the busiest highway in the province.

    • Idiot
      September 27, 2012 - 11:15

      You're dumb. The Bio-Vectra plant was built there long before the road in question became a major route and much longer before that become a crappy "residential' area. An explosion or chemical leak in that plant could effect people miles away so you can absolutely guarentee it would dangerously effect people in the apartment buildings that had been put up in their back yard. The Bio-Vectra buidling and many others within the Industrial Park are equipped to survive chemical spills, minor fires & even explosions. Cheap apartment building are not. This is a case of first come first serve. Bio-Vectra has been there for years and have been warning the city for a very long time about allowing residential areas to grow near them (The Maypoint apartments involved the same run around). It's not a question of IF something will happen, it's a matter of WHEN. That's the nature of the buisness and Bio-Vectra have gone above and beyond to look out for the residents of Charlottetown since IRAC & City Council don't.

  • Dave
    September 26, 2012 - 22:26

    Hey lets all argue about moving the propane plant on Allen St. but then build apartments 3m away from an industrial park near tanks of volatile chemicals. Great job Charlottetown keeping your citizens safe.

  • don
    September 26, 2012 - 22:07

    well should anything happen i bet the people that lives close will be sueing. and it just proves that the city and irac cares very little for the preople of ch'town to allow places to be built so close but as i keep saying MONEY talks.

  • jay zee
    September 26, 2012 - 19:03

    I hope the city of Charlottetown remembers these decisions and can defend them to voters when BioVectra, our premier bioscience company at the heart of the Biotech community in PEI, decides they can no longer afford the potential liability of an accident and leaves PEI, putting hundreds of people out of work and scaring off any potential out-of-province biotech startups. Can someone tell me exactly which member of city council is getting the kickbacks from these unneeded, and unwanted apartment complexes?

  • Stephen
    September 26, 2012 - 17:29

    This is why there is no point in moving the propane plant. In 10-15 years the city will expand & over-take them much the way they are here, and we will be complaining that BioVectra should move its plant.

    • Dave
      September 26, 2012 - 22:32

      Because large volume propane explosions are unique they emit a lot of radiant energy which can kill people as far away 300m and can severely injure people up to a kilometre away.

  • intobed
    September 26, 2012 - 17:26

    If nobody moved into these apartments, this wouldn't be an issue. I have no sympathy for the tenants should something happen. You are responsible for your own safe environment to live in, and if you are willing to live in a dangerous location then on your own head be it.

    • SDW
      September 27, 2012 - 17:04

      I feel BioVectra has done its due diligence for safety, in making their case and no law in blazes can come after them. But IRAC on the other hand is a different story. I would not move into these apts after the plant giving everyone a very real possibility of what can happen. So everyone is forewarned...