August 11, 2023 [News Journal]- When Sharon Trescott learned that a petroleum tank farm and rail terminal were being constructed less than two miles from her home in Ormond Beach she was more than a little concerned.
The planned facility will consist of 16 tanks, some 40 feet tall, that will store more than 20 million gallons of fuel and feed a steady stream of tanker trucks.
“It’s just something that shouldn’t be anywhere near residential,” said Trescott, who lives less than two miles away.
Area residents say they are concerned about safety, property values, the environment and the possibility of more truck traffic being added to already busy roads, among other issues.
The proposed Volusia County site is on over 60 acres of vacant land at 874 Hull Road close to U.S. 1.
Within about a mile of the proposed facility is the Ormond Beach Sports Complex, which has a playground and a variety of sports facilities. The area also has residential, commercial and industrial uses, including Halifax Paving and S.R. Perrott, a beverage distributor. The Ormond Beach Municipal Airport is also nearby.
40-foot tanks and millions of gallons of fuel
The Belvedere Terminals facility can store over 10.7 million gallons of gasoline, over 4.6 million gallons of ethanol, over 4.6 million gallons of ultra-low sulfur diesel, 315,000 gallons of biodiesel, 30,000 gallons of additives and 160,000 gallons of propane, according to Florida Department of Environmental Protection documents.
Six tanks will be 40 feet tall. Others will be 16 feet tall and 13.6 feet tall.
FDEP signed the air construction permit on Aug. 1. Opponents have 30 days to file an appeal ― the clock starts after the permit is filed with FDEP’s clerk.
Part of a bigger Florida fuel effort
Belvedere Terminals doesn’t buy or sell fuel but provides storage and distribution for customers. The company works with Florida East Coast Railway, CSX and Norfolk Southern, among other businesses, its website says.
The fuel is delivered mainly to gasoline and diesel retailers with multiple locations.
The business chose Ormond Beach as part of a $250 million project to create a multi-site fuel distribution system, according to a company document. About $100 million of the project’s investment will be made in Florida.
The project is intended to bring “safer, lower cost and more reliable delivery of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel” to Floridians.
Belvedere Terminals Chief Operating Officer Mike Benedetto said in a prepared statement to the News-Journal that the effort will create hundreds of jobs.
Here’s how the operation will work.
Trains loaded at a hub in Mississippi will deliver products on existing rail lines to “spur locations” in Florida. From there, the products “will be trucked over much shorter last mile routes” and delivered.
So far three spur sites are planned: one each in Jacksonville, Ft. Pierce and Ormond Beach. Jacksonville is being developed first. The Ormond Beach site could open in 2025, Benedetto said. The business is considering developing 5-7 other spur sites in Florida.
Florida is dependent almost entirely on shipping to meet its energy needs because there is “no in-state refining capacity or interstate pipelines for the production and distribution of refined petroleum products,” according to Belvedere Terminals.
The hub-and-spur system will reduce the amount of trucking time needed and will help ensure fuel supplies are available during hurricanes “when ships cannot access ports on time.”
‘Brutal’ traffic ahead for residents?
Bear Creek Village residents gathered Wednesday just down the road from the site near their community.
Fran Canfield, homeowners’ association president at Bear Creek, said there are 646 homes in the 55-and-older community. And some people aren’t happy about the project.
“Naturally we’re worried about our property values. And considering with market rents stalling out today and the real estate industry a little bit at a standstill, this is going to, I think, negatively affect any new buyers coming in here,” she said.
Patricia Franzem, another Bear Creek resident, said she’s concerned about construction noise, noise during business operations, fuel-truck traffic and acts of terrorism. She’s also concerned about how close the proposed fuel terminal is to homes, the Ormond Beach Sports Complex and the Ormond Beach Municipal Airport.
“God forbid there’s an (airplane) accident at a fuel farm. I can only imagine what that would be like,” she said.
The facility will have a fire protection system, including an emergency fire water pump and foam fire suppression, as well as safety monitoring systems, according to FDEP documents and Benedetto.
The project will be reviewed and approved by the local fire department, Benedetto said.
“Belvedere Terminals is committed to using the highest level of life safety and protection designs,” he said. “The company’s tremendous focus on safety measures that are designed into the project at the outset incorporate redundant layers of protection to mitigate any such events (a fire or explosion).”
Walter McGovern, of Bear Creek, said he expects truck traffic “to be brutal.”
“It’s going to run 24 hours a day,” he said.
He talked about other issues, too.
“First of all, I’ve seen tank farms up North. I know what they look like, and they’re awful. … They also belong in an industrial, heavily industrial, area, which this certainly is not,” he said.
Halifax Paving is on Hull Road, too. The business provides asphalt, builds roads and provides other services. Business president Tad Durrance said he hadn’t heard many details about the project but is concerned about whether the added traffic will slow down the asphalt-carrying dump trucks coming from his business.
“If you add 100 tankers a day all trying to get onto U.S. 1, it could slow down our production substantially,” he said
While some have only recently learned about the project, it’s been known to city officials for more than a year, at least ― as well as its potential traffic impacts.
The Ormond Beach Site Plan Review Committee spoke about the project in June of 2022, according to meeting minutes. At the time, officials expected the project to bring about seven trucks an hour and over 160 trucks in a 24-hour period. The truck route was expected to be from Harmony Road to Hull Road, and out to U.S. 1.
Officials now expect about four trucks per hour on average, Benedetto said.
“Additionally, it is important to note that Belvedere is investing in road maintenance and other upgrades to ensure the safety and reliability of truck travel in the area,” he said.
Belvedere Terminals will have to provide traffic impact information as part of the site review process with Volusia County ― the site is adjacent to city land but is in the county government’s jurisdiction.
“The project engineer will need to provide information during site plan review that the site and nearby infrastructure can handle the increased truck traffic. Improvements may be necessary,” according to Carol McFarlane, Volusia County’s director of Planning and Development Services.
Belvedere Terminals chose Ormond Beach because of its distance from ports in Jacksonville and Tampa and Port Everglades, Benedetto said. And the site is attractive because it’s on industrially zoned property.
People who spoke to the News-Journal said they’d heard very little about the project and were unhappy at what appeared to be almost nonexistent public outreach.
A legal advertisement on July 7 for the FDEP draft air permit in the Hometown News alerted some people to the project.
Trescott said that wasn’t nearly enough public outreach considering the size and possible impacts of the project.
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She said she considers the project “a taking” of residential properties in the area, including hers, because of safety concerns. Among other things, she said nearby roads aren’t designed for the traffic that will be coming, and U.S. 1 at Hull Road is already dangerous. She said she’s also concerned about contamination of the water supply from leaks and spills.
Benedetto said the project will have a “state-of-the-art” design to make sure no product spills will go into the ground, with the help of a chemically resistant liner.
He added that “The project design is a completely closed system that includes drip pans and collection points at all loading and unloading stations, which will filter or remove product from the site.”
Why is this kind of development allowed?
The project doesn’t need to be rezoned to be built, according to Volusia County’s guidelines. Most of the property is zoned for heavy industrial use, according to McFarlane. A piece of it is zoned agricultural.
The county requires final site plan approval. The site plan is engineered drawings, which county staff reviews, according to McFarlane. The plans then go the Development Review Committee, which is also made up of county staff, for approval before construction can begin.
But once the project is built, the property will be annexed into the city of Ormond Beach because it will be using city and not county utilities, Ormond Beach Planning Director Steven Spraker said. The city’s regulations require the annexation, he said.
Residents are hoping the project won’t get that far.
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