Belvedere lawsuit calls Volusia’s pause on industrial development ‘legally defective’
Volusia County is facing a lawsuit from Belvedere Terminals, the company proposing to build a fuel terminal on a piece of land located right near the county’s border with the City of Ormond Beach.
Neither jurisdiction supports the proposed fuel terminal, per previous public discussions held by the city and county, but they appeared to have little legal recourse against it — until late November, when Volusia County Council voted in favor of a nine-month ban on development in areas of the county zoned for ‘heavy industrial’ use.
But now, Belvedere Terminals alleges the county’s temporary ban, or moratorium, is “legally defective and void,” because it is actually a zoning ordinance, according to the company’s complaint, filed January 2.
Council broke Florida law by enacting the ban without providing public notice and a chance for the proposal to be heard, per the complaint, which alleges “a deliberate and concerted effort by the County Council to rob Belvedere of its Property and constitutionally protected rights.”
At the council meeting November 21, County Attorney Michael Dyer told council members about Florida’s required process to change land uses in a zoning district.
“It would have to go to your planning commission, what you call your PLDRC [Planning and Development Regulation Commission],” Dyer said. “It would have to come in front of this council for two hearings. That’s a state law; that’s not within our control.”
Echoing that sentiment, the county’s director of growth and resource management Clay Ervin told council members that per state law, local governments must use a specific process to change zoning of private property.
“It’s something that you can’t do tonight, like ‘that,’” Ervin said, snapping his fingers.
But effectively, the council's unanimous vote on November 21 still had an immediate impact: by enacting a pending ordinance doctrine that stops the processing of site plan applications in areas currently zoned for ‘heavy industrial’ use, according to the county.
Already heard by Volusia’s PLDRC, the moratorium ordinance first went before council members at a January 4 meeting, and will be heard once more on February 6. If it passes, the ban will be effective through August 21 of this year, backdated to start on November 21, 2023, according to Senior Assistant County Attorney Paolo Salinas Soria.
Although Belvedere representatives insist the project is safe, local officials and community members alike have repeatedly expressed safety concerns about building a fuel terminal so close to where residents live.
Area resident Elena Krafft started a citizens’ petition against the terminal that now has nearly 38,000 signatures. She says contrary to the company’s lawsuit, the moratorium doesn’t target Belvedere Terminals.
Instead, Krafft says, it’s about addressing a much larger issue with industrial development increasingly encroaching on residential areas. For example, she says, many local homeowners bought their homes before 2006, when the area was zoned for heavy industrial use.
“It's not just about Belvedere, it's about all of Volusia County,” Krafft said. “The fact that the county did not proactively look at heavy industrial land before doesn't mean that they shouldn't do it now. This was really just the trigger point … but it really was something that needed to happen a long time ago, and it should be done as soon as possible.”
A Volusia County spokesperson said in a written statement that the county is aware of and reviewing the lawsuit. The company Belvedere Terminals declined to comment, referring WMFE instead to the filed legal complaint.
Correction: An earlier version of this story provided an incorrect date for the second reading of the moratorium. At its January 4 meeting, the Volusia County Council moved to reschedule the second reading to February 6, 2024.