Volusia Council approves 9-month ban on ‘heavy industrial’ development
Volusia County Council on Tuesday unanimously voted in favor of a nine-month moratorium on development in the county’s heavy industrial (I-2) zoning districts, a decision following several months of discussion and public outcry about a fuel terminal that a private company wants to build on Hull Road, near Ormond Beach.
The fuel terminal would primarily be a truck loading station for millions of gallons of gasoline, diesel, ethanol and biodiesel, according to an air construction permit Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) issued in August to Belvedere Terminals, the private company behind the project.
Local residents are pushing back hard against the proposed fuel terminal, and more than 34,000 people have signed a petition against it. Many community members have safety concerns, especially given the Hull Road site’s close proximity to a sports complex and residential areas, including a nearby retirement community.
Although many local government officials with Volusia County and the city of Ormond Beach also publicly oppose the project, they hadn’t yet figured out a realistic strategy to try and block it until Tuesday’s council meeting, when councilmembers approved the temporary moratorium.
It’s a measure that wouldn’t have been possible just a few weeks ago.
Since July of this year, Florida’s “Disaster Relief” law (SB 250) preempted many local governments — including Volusia County — from making land development regulations “more restrictive or burdensome.” But recently, during Florida’s special legislative session, state lawmakers approved significant changes to that law, removing Volusia and other counties from its scope.
That change to state law cleared the way for Volusia County to approve the new, temporary moratorium.
Effectively, the moratorium began Tuesday, pending an ordinance that will now be drafted by the county’s Planning and Land Development Regulation Commission. In January, council will hear that ordinance twice; then, the ordinance will be backdated to Nov. 21, according to an attorney for the county.
Additionally on Tuesday, Volusia County Council directed staff to review and possibly revise its current ‘heavy industrial’ zoning regulations, which passed back in 2006, according to County Attorney Michael Dyer.
“Council’s direction permits County staff to review and potentially recommend revisions to these regulations to modernize the zoning category and reflect the current state of local communities,” according to Volusia County.
That review process could change the future of industrial development in Volusia County generally, beyond the current fuel terminal issue.
“It’s better for us to look at this holistically, for the entire county,” said Councilmember David Santiago, addressing those present at Tuesday’s council meeting. “Many of you have said we’re here to protect Volusia County. Volusia County is very big.”
Applause broke out when council passed the motion — but just before that, during a public comment period, some residents expressed skepticism about a temporary moratorium’s long-term impact.
“I came here today in hopes that we’d have a resolution to this, but it’s clear that you’re essentially delaying the inevitable,” said Rebecca Mangali, who told council she brought her kids along to Tuesday’s meeting, instead of staying at home with them to put up Christmas decorations.
Mangali and some other residents who spoke Tuesday said they are worried their fight against the terminal could lose momentum during the nine-month moratorium.
“I am tired of coming to these meetings, whether it’s city, county. Tired of having to listen to the runaround, the punting that constantly goes on. The city doesn’t want this, the county doesn’t want this,” Mangali said.
Officials with Ormond Beach and Volusia County previously went back and forth on several potential strategies to block the terminal, none of which came to fruition. The previous version of SB 250 preempted some strategies, including one idea for the county to hand off its current oversight of the property to Ormond Beach.
“In my opinion, it’s not punting and kicking it down the road. It’s a more secure way of doing it completely in our county,” County Chair Jeff Brower said Tuesday.
Brower also pointed out the nine-month moratorium will expire “directly in the middle of election season.”
“So there is no running and hiding from anybody that sits up here, if that’s what you’re concerned about,” Brower told residents.
For its part, Belvedere Terminals previously stated the company had met with local officials and wanted to collaborate with local first responders on all safety plans, which would include predetermined and optimized fire response routes.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the company described Belvedere’s system as “more safe than a neighborhood gas station because of our highly trained employees, sophisticated preventive systems, and the absence of general public access to the site.”