It was standing room only at the Ormond Beach City Commission meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 15, as residents voiced their unwavering opposition for the construction of a fuel farm — just outside of the city’s jurisdiction, in unincorporated land overseen by the county.
Still, residents pleaded with city officials to help them stop the project at 874 Hull Road by Belvedere Terminals Company, LLC, which received an air construction permit approval from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on Aug. 1. An appeal must be filed within 30 days, leaving less than two weeks to do so. Most residents found out about the development last week.
“This is a county matter, but you’re our voices in county government,” resident Ashley DuFrene said. “... You are what Florida will listen to. You are what the county will listen to. I’ve seen people speak and speak and speak and nothing changes. You are the voices for us, so you need to make your voices heard as well.”
And the city will do just that.
In three unanimous votes, the commissioners voted to pursue appealing FDEP’s permit approval, as well as to send letters to the county, the Volusia legislative delegation and Belvedere Terminals opposing the project.
“Thirty, 40 years ago, when I was a little kid, it would have made sense to have an industrial zoning out there,” Mayor Bill Partington said. “But the way it’s developed doesn’t make sense anymore.”
The fuel farm
Belvedere Terminals is developing a $250 million multi-site fuel distribution system that "will offer Floridians safer, lower cost and more reliable delivery of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel," according to a statement from the company. Florida is almost entirely dependent on shipping to supply its energy needs, the statement details, as it has no in-state refining capacity or interstate pipelines for the production and distribution of refined petroleum products.
"Belvedere’s system is a unique hub and spur distribution system," the company statement reads. "The hub, based in Mississippi, will load product onto trains which will travel along existing rail lines to multiple spur locations throughout Florida, investing over $250 million in capital with approximately $100 million of that total investment in Florida with over a hundred high paying, skilled jobs during operations."
The facility, to be known as the Ormond Beach Terminal, will be used to load gasoline, diesel, ethanol and biodiesel into trucks. It will consist of “multiple truck loading bays, an aboveground tank farm, an engine-driven emergency generator, and fire protection system which includes an engine-driven emergency fire water pump,” according to the FDEP permit.
The facility will be designed to achieve a maximum truck loading output of about 357.6 million gallons a year of gasoline, and, 36.1 million gallons a year of ethanol. It will have 16 storage tanks.
The project is part of an expansion by Belvedere Terminals, according to its website. The company is adding new terminals in Jacksonville and Ft. Pierce. The Jacksonville site will be developed first. The company stated its permitting process is underway, and that it expects to be under construction within the next year and operational in the beginning of 2025.
On June 22, 2022, Belvedere Terminals representatives met via Zoom with the city’s Site Plan Review Committee. During the meeting, they indicated the terminal was aimed for “storage and disbursement for rail fed gasoline and diesel fuel with the intention to fill trucks, offering an alternative way to get fuel expedited to the market, especially in emergency situations such as hurricanes,” according to the meeting’s minutes. The trucks — about seven per hour, for a total of over 160 in a 24-hour cycle — would utilize Harmony Road to Hull Road to reach U.S. 1.
Former Circuit Judge Joseph Will called the fuel farm “an incredibly stupid” idea at the commission meeting, and urged elected officials to find a way to stop the project.
“What I want to do is walk away from this thing a year from now and say our City Commission fought hard for us,” Will said.
Concerns voiced by residents at the meeting included environmental hazards, increased traffic on the narrow roads to be utilized by the trucks, a decrease of safety for the children playing at the nearby Ormond Beach Sports Complex and fear of a disaster should a tank catch fire.
Twenty-seven people spoke at the meeting, all against the fuel terminal.
Bear Creek resident Nancy Bates said residents are scared. Their neighborhood is the closest to the proposed fuel tank property.
“This fuel farm scares the bejesus out of us,” Bates said. “Why? For all the reasons that all these other people have said, but more importantly, because ... we are in the direct line of fire. If something happens, we lose our homes, we lose our lives.”
Belvedere Terminals states it is making a long-term commitment to improving Florida's energy supply landscape while maintaining the company's focus on health, safety and environment throughout the communities served.
"It is Belvedere’s strategic goal to not only bring safer, lower cost fuel to the state, but to be a critical resource in helping communities continue to access fuel during their times of greatest need," the statement reads.
‘We do have a voice’
Commissioners thanked the residents for coming to the meeting, which didn’t have a discussion on the fuel farm on the agenda.
“This is a project that lies in Volusia County,” Commissioner Harold Briley said. “However, their duty to you is public safety, as well as ours, and you all brought up a lot of the same issues in mind for me.”
Commissioner Travis Sargent said listening to residents’ is what’s great about representing them.
“While our hands might be tied, we do have a voice for you,” Sargent said.
Commissioner Lori Tolland called it an “unbelievable representation” of citizens.
“It was so heartwarming to hear each one of you have the same passion and disdain for this project that I feel,” she said.
Commissioner Susan Persis said residents’ concerns were valid, and that she shared the same concerns. At the end of the meeting, Persis said it was a meeting she’ll never forget, and one that showed they all want to preserve Ormond Beach.
“We don’t want our city to have a fuel farm — I don’t think anybody wants that,” she said.
Planning Board to meet Monday
The Ormond Beach Planning Board will meet at 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 21, to discuss the proposed 276-unit Tomoka Reserve development.
The meeting will be held at Tomoka Christian Church, located at 1450 Hand Ave. This is a continuation of the hearing held July 13 for the development, which is proposed to be built on the former Tomoka Oaks golf course land at 20 Tomoka Oaks Blvd.
The property owner — Triumph Oaks of Ormond Beach I, LLC — is seeking the issuance of a development order.
Have issues with MetroNet?
Internet service provider MetroNet is currently working to install fiber optic internet cables in Ormond Beach.
After receiving complaints from citizens about MetroNet workers, the city opened a page on its website with frequently asked questions. It directs resident to voice their issues to MetroNet representatives by calling 877-386-3876.
To read the city’s FAQ, visit bit.ly/3OUO56q.