OBLIVIOUS CITY COUNCIL SAID YES TO LEVEL 3 BIOLABS?
Michelle Kelley, Esq.
A vast majority of Revere residents are outraged that a biolab is being built at the previous site of the historic Suffolk Downs racetrack. This particular biolab (a/k/a a LifeScience Building, which is the more aesthetically pleasing term), will consist of more than 500,000 square feet! Tenants for the space have not yet been determined but pursuant to zoning ordinances which took place in 2017, Level 3 Biolabs (BSL-3 labs) are permissible in Revere. In addition, this particular BSL-3 lab, at Suffolk Downs, will include a vivarium, a top floor, specifically designed and designated for animal testing and experimentation.
The obvious question is what does having a BSL-3 lab in your city actually mean? It means that, in addition to conducting animal testing and experimentation, the lab can house and handle such microbes as yellow fever, West Nile virus, and the bacteria that causes tuberculosis just to name a few. Clearly, this is something that most, if not all, residents would like to be made aware of. In actuality, however, decisions surrounding the zoning changes making this all possible, in Revere, were done in a seemingly covert manner.
In 2017, specific zoning changes were approved without any discussion pertaining to the particulars of Biolabs, each specific Biolab level or the inherent risks they pose. In fact, subsequently in 2022, Revere City Councilors & City Officials are on record stating they did not possess sufficient information regarding the specific functions of Biolabs nor were they aware that animal testing could take place. Nevertheless, in 2017, BSL-3 labs were given the green light.
Obviously, an issue this serious should have been explored, in depth, by the City Council, in public hearings, clarifying what these proposed zoning changes would mean and what BSL-3 labs are all about. Unfortunately, this was not the case yet some City Councilors assert that, in 2017, hearings did take place without opposition. However, a close look at those hearings reveals that discussions of what the zoning changes would mean and what would be going on in a BSL-3 lab never took place. There was never any mention of BSL-3 labs, microbes, pathogens, animal testing, etc. Instead, broad, vague and superficial terms such as ‘biotech’ were used without any in depth discussion. In light of these discussions, it becomes clear why there wasn’t any opposition. Surely, the average citizen could not oppose something that was not made clear to them. Some may describe the process that took place as a far cry from transparency.
A few months ago, however, the Biolab at Suffolk Downs was finally exposed and Revere residents attempted to voice strong opposition at public hearings. However, the City Council imposed new rules, some residents were not allowed to speak, a police presence was requested for intimidation purposes, disparaging remarks were made to citizens, citizens were attempted to be removed, mis-information was attempted to be dispersed and most questions were simply not answered. Subsequent, calls and emails to City Councilors have also gone unanswered.
In light of all this, Revere residents have requested to appear before the City Council to request that they send the issue to a special election ballot vote in order for their voices to be heard. In the alternative and, at the very least, residents would desperately like to see the Revere City Council amend the city’s zoning ordinances to prohibit any and all animal experimentation and testing and also reduce the level of any and all Biolabs in Revere to a Level 1 in order to ensure risks to the public are kept at a minimum.
Unfortunately, it is important to note that this issue doesn’t pertain to Revere alone. In fact, proposals for Biolabs are popping up everywhere … Lynn, Chelsea, Beverly, Natick and Lexington, just to name a few. Research & Development labs are not something new yet, suddenly, it seems that every city or town needs several of them. Why the sudden surge? In light of our recent pandemic this is a question everyone should demand be answered.
To voice your opposition against Biolabs being built in Revere, dangerous pathogens and animal testing, please call or email Revere City Council President, Gerry Visconti, 617-594-4633; email@example.com. Thank you.