October 20, 2023 [News Journal]- Despite a pledge by an executive of the company that wants to build a fuel distribution and storage facility near Ormond Beach that the operation will be smaller than planned, the county is continuing to explore ways to put a stop to the project.
On Tuesday night, the Volusia County Council voted to consider shifting more power to Ormond Beach in an attempt to block the proposed facility.
Ormond residents and government officials as well as the county government have voiced opposition to the project and are looking for alternative locations and options.
Belvedere Terminals plans to build the facility at 874 Hull Road near U.S. 1. The project has an air quality permit that allows it to dispense over 357 million gallons of fuel and other products each year.
But Belvedere Chief Financial Officer Timothy Schwarz told the News-Journal that the facility will have three main and some ancillary tanks as opposed to the 16 that were originally planned. The facility will still distribute fuel 24 hours a day, with peak hours seeing about four trucks, he said.
District 5 Councilman David Santiago told the crowd gathered on Tuesday that a new law restricts their ability to stop the fuel farm.
Senate Bill 250, signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, limits the county’s ability to add “more restrictive or burdensome” land regulations before Oct. 1, 2024, because the county was within 100 miles of where Hurricane Nicole made landfall in 2022.
The land is in the county’s jurisdiction, but the city would have more freedom in making changes, Santiago said. So Santiago proposed bringing back an item that would shift control of the land to the city of Ormond Beach. The proposal is expected to come back to the council for a vote.
District 4 Councilman Troy Kent said that the site is not yet under a lease agreement with Belvedere Terminals. It’s owned by Florida East Coast Railway.
Kent proposed having the county explore a possible partnership with the city of Ormond Beach in leasing the land. The Council unanimously supported that, and that item will also come back to the County Council for discussion.
Though he ultimately voted in support of looking into a possible lease, District 3 Councilman Danny Robins voiced concern about setting a precedent for the county leasing properties when an issue arises.
Meanwhile, officials at Belvedere Terminals are moving ahead with their plans to launch the site in mid-2025, Schwarz said.
The firm has invested $3 million to $4 million in design and engineering costs for the Ormond Beach location after having preliminary project meetings with Volusia County and Ormond Beach officials in 2022.
Still, the business would consider moving to an alternative location if it met the facility’s needs. So far, none have emerged.
He said the facility will bring jobs and tax revenue and will ensure the safety of the community against explosions and leaks.
“There would not be a large-scale explosion,” he said.
Schwarz conducted TV interviews this month, including with Spectrum News 13, and made similar comments about building a smaller facility, but they did not allay the fears of people who approached the County Council on Tuesday night and asked for action.
Ormond Beach resident Elena Krafft, who spoke before the Council’s vote on Tuesday, showed the County Council a video of her visit to a fuel farm in Tampa over the weekend. She said when she used to live in the area at times she would have to keep her children indoors because of the smell. She urged the county to take concrete action to prevent the Ormond Beach project.
“They told you they have every intention of pursuing this project at Hull Road. Please take their word seriously and be proactive instead of reactive,” she said.
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