Volusia County weighs options trying to block a proposed fuel terminal
Volusia County officials say they continue brainstorming potential strategies to block a proposed fuel terminal at 874 Hull Road that’s drawn public outcry, even as the county still has yet to receive a formal development application for the project from Belvedere Terminals.
“Everybody is thinking outside the box, and being very creative in how to approach this concern from the community,” said Director of Community Information Michael Ryan. “We’re looking at all the tools in the toolbox, and figuring out which ones are the most logical and the most legally viable.”
One of those tools could involve shifting the county’s current oversight of 874 Hull Road over to the city of Ormond Beach, according to Volusia County Councilman David Santiago, who in October asked county staff to draft a resolution that he says would do just that. Council is set to consider that draft resolution Tuesday.
“I’m trying to give the citizens of Ormond the power to work with their local government, the city of Ormond Beach, to make decisions on the land use for that property. That's it,” Santiago said. “Because we're prohibited from doing it.”
A new state law, Senate Bill 250, blocks local governments within a 100-mile radius of Hurricanes Ian or Nicole from adopting “more restrictive or burdensome amendments” to its land development regulations. That 100-mile radius includes unincorporated Volusia County, Santiago says, but not the city of Ormond Beach.
“The city of Ormond Beach is not bound by that bill,” Santiago said. “So this is a tool that, if we were to give them the rights to do the developmental [or] the land use decisions, then the city can choose, if they want, to start the initiation process to change the land use.”
Right now, the land at 874 Hull Road is zoned for “Heavy Industrial” use, meaning the proposed fuel terminal could be permitted and developed there.
Although Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington unequivocally opposes the proposed fuel terminal at 874 Hull Road, he doesn’t think Santiago’s proposed solution would stop developers from building it there.
In fact, Partington says, the draft resolution Volusia County Council will consider Tuesday could actually make the situation worse.
“Current law states when you annex a property, you have to provide exactly the same zoning, or as close thereto as possible, and the same bundle of rights around that property go with it,” Partington said. “So even though the intent would be to skirt [SB 250], in practical effect, we wouldn’t be able to do that.”
Partington cited the “Bert Harris Act,” a Florida law that allows property owners to sue governments for damages, if a governmental entity restricts or limits land use regulations in a way that negatively impacts property owners financially.
Basically, Partington says, shifting the county’s current oversight of 874 Hull Road over to the city would only open the door for a “Bert Harris” claim from Belvedere Terminals, “which nobody really wants to see,” Partington said.
The mayor does agree the county and city should work together to examine future planning issues that could potentially arise along their shared, northern border — just not for 874 Hull Road, according to a written statement a city spokesperson provided on Nov. 3 to WMFE News.
“We believe there is no benefit to the citizens of Volusia County for this property to be annexed and zoned within Ormond Beach because it would grant the developer utilities and rights that it does not now have,” the statement reads.
Ormond Beach commissioners already voted unanimously on Sept. 20 against either providing utilities to the project site or annexing the property from Volusia County, according to the statement.
However, at separate meetings on Sept. 6 and Oct. 4, city leaders said they wanted to explore possibilities for a new Interlocal Service Boundary Agreement (ISBA) with Volusia County, in light of the proposed fuel terminal project, according to meeting minutes available online.
Similar issues arose with previous projects along Ormond Beach’s shared boundary with Volusia County, according to the meeting minutes for Sept. 6.
Partington says it’s probably time to adjust some of the area’s land use regulations, due to Ormond Beach’s substantial growth over the last 25-30 years.
“Honestly, they probably need to do a review, and probably should have done a review maybe ten years ago, to find some other parts of the city that might be appropriate for an industrial zoning,” Partington said.
As of Monday afternoon, more than 32,000 people had signed a citizens’ petition against the project, described by Partington as likely “the biggest threat to our quality of life” in Ormond Beach during the last two decades.
Partington recently doubled down on his stance against the project by co-signing a joint statement of opposition with Ormond Beach’s fire chief and police chief. The statement says storing large quantities of fuel at the proposed location could create the potential for fire hazards; it also expresses concern about a projected increase in the area’s fuel tanker traffic.
“The safety implications for our community must be considered because the risk of an explosion remains and the possibility of unexpected chemical reactions cannot be overlooked,” the statement reads.
In a written response, Belvedere Terminals pushed back against the idea that chemical reactions would pose a risk.
“Our systems would not use, store or transport chemicals - as the letter indicated. It would store gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and ethanol, which are commonly transported and safely used by millions of people every day. Our top priority is public safety and that is why we are meeting and exceeding the requirements of the American Petroleum Institute and National Fire Protection Association in all our plans,” Belvedere’s statement reads.
The company also plans to have a fire suppression system on site that would “immediately put out a fire if it occurred in a storage tank,” according to the statement.
Belvedere Terminals says it continues meeting with local officials and wants to collaborate with local first responders on all its safety plans, which will include optimized fire response routes and emergency response drills.
Volusia County has a webpage dedicated to sharing updates on the Belvedere Terminal project. Councilmembers will discuss the draft resolution proposed by Councilman Santiago at Tuesday’s meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. and can be streamed online.