The plan hinges on the town council’s willingness to adjust current zoning ordinances.
The public learned Tuesday that an animal testing facility could be headed to Christiansburg.
During a public hearing at Tuesday’s regular town council meeting, staff told council members some adjustments would have to be made to the town’s zoning ordinance in order to allow such an industry.
Acting Town Manager Randy Wingfield said a company is considering locating in the Falling Branch Industrial Park (I-2, General Industrial District) that would be connected to this type of definition.
Brian Hamilton with the Montgomery County Economic Development office said a biotech company is interested in locating at 145 Technology Drive.
He has said animal testing would occur, but no animals will be visible, and the building would have the appearance of a standard office building.
The exact name, like many other prospective companies, is being kept under wraps until a deal is reached, but it is up in the air until the town makes the necessary zoning changes.
Wingfield told the council that the company is involved with the genetic testing of animal hearts that can be used for human patients. While nothing has been linked to researchers at Virginia Tech, several companies there are already doing similar research. Blacksburg officials have two separate definitions for laboratory and research and development.
Laboratory is defined as a facility for scientific laboratory research in technology-intensive fields or a facility for scientific laboratory analysis of natural resources, medical resources and manufactured materials.
Research and development is defined as a business that engages in research, or research and development, of innovative ideas in technology-intensive fields.
Examples include research and development of communication systems, transportation, geographic information systems, multimedia and video technology. Development and construction of prototypes may be associated with this use.
Other localities in the region have similar definitions within their zoning ordinances.
Planning commission said this type of facility could be allowed with a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), but there could be the option of amending the zoning ordinance to allow animal testing and research “by-right” with limitations in the future.
Last month, Hamilton told the planning commission that the United States Food and Drug Administration’s drug development process begins with discovery and development followed by preclinical research, which is defined as animal and laboratory testing to answer basic questions about safety.
He said that it is common practice preceding clinical review and FDA approval of drugs. The current Christiansburg zoning, according to Hamilton, hinders the MCED’s ability to market property within the town for animal research and testing.
The planning commission recommended approval of a CUP for the new facility with four conditions: there will be no outdoor keeping of any animals, the property shall be maintained in a clean, sanitary and sightly manner, there shall be no excessive noise or odor discernible at the property line and there will be no on-site sales.
One resident, Chris Wallace, expressed his concern on what exactly the proposed company would be doing research on.
He told the governmental body his research into the matter pointed to a company that does work for the Department of Defense and the military, thus possibly dealing with some questionable vaccines and diseases.
Council took no action on the matter Tuesday night, but plans to discuss it at a future meeting.
Town council approved the rezoning of the property at 840 Peppers Ferry Road from Agriculture to B-3, general business, to allow for the expansion of a current storage unit business.