REEDLEY – At their recent meeting, council voted to extend the urgency ordinance that placed a temporary moratorium on any new labs or warehouses with biosafety levels (BSL) 2 through 4 operating in the city.
The council made the unanimous vote on Oct. 10. City Manager Nicole Zieba said that after the discovery of the illegal lab operating at 850 I Street, she realized there was nothing in the zoning code that specifically addressed that type of situation.
“We recognized the operations at 850 I were illegal in every shape and form,” Zieba said. “But it made us look into our zoning ordinances and it made us realize there was nothing addressing medical labs or research and development labs that deal with infectious substances to humans.”
At its Sept. 12 meeting, the council passed Urgency Ordinance 2023-008, which established a temporary moratorium on any new lab in the city. Zieba said the ordinance afforded the city time to update the zoning code.
“We wanted to work some changes into our zoning code and that takes a little longer than an urgency ordinance,” said Zieba.
Zieba said in California, after an urgency ordinance is adopted, it must be renewed within 45 days, at which time the ordinance is good for one year.
She added, “I don’t anticipate we’ll have to go through the entire year for this because of our progress with the zoning code.”
BSL 1, 2, 3 and 4
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assigns safety levels to indicate what specific controls a laboratory must have in place for the containment of microbes and biological agents. A BSL-1 lab typically deals with non-lethal agents and low-risk microbes that pose no threat to humans. The higher the BLS, the more dangerous the agents and microbes.
A BSL-2 lab includes all labs that work with infectious agents that pose health hazards, including HIV. BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs deal with highly infectious and potentially lethal agents, including West Nile, Ebola and Marburg viruses.
“We don’t have any existing labs that have BSL 2-4,” said Zieba.
ZONING CODE UPDATE
Zieba said the city began updating the city zoning code 18 months ago, before Code Enforcement Officer Jesalyn Harper discovered the now infamous garden hose running through the back wall at 850 I Street.
“I will say our zoning code update is going along very well,” said Zieba. “We plan to have a workshop in January with all of the updates. We are not anticipating it will be too much longer until we have a permanent ordinance in place dealing with something like this.”