Well, I think we can all say 2023 has been quite something. A rollercoaster, even.
It's always interesting to see what a new year brings to our small town, and in 2023, the team here at the Observer wrote over 1,300 stories — all about you, Ormond Beach, and the issues that we as a community are facing. To narrow down what should be featured in our yearly timeline edition is definitely a challenge.
But here are some stories that I think shaped our local news cycle.
Let's start with the fuel farm. In August, Residents discovered Belvedere Terminals sought to construct a fuel terminal at 874 Hull Road in unincorporated Volusia County, on the city's border and in close proximity to the Ormond Beach Sports Complex, Bear Creek, Ormond Lakes and local businesses. What would follow is months of strong civic engagement that resulted in severe pushback against the company. Now at the end of the year, not only has the city eliminated its "I-2 Heavy Industrial" zoning from its code, but Volusia County has enacted a moratorium on heavy industrial development, halting an application by Belvedere Terminals two weeks later.
Almost at the same time, Tomoka Oaks residents were busy pushing back against a 272-home development proposal for their former golf course. The attendance for the three public hearings held by the Planning Board and the City Commission was so large, the meetings were held at local churches instead of City Hall. After the developers of Tomoka Reserve were directed to revisit their plans and present a less dense project to the Planning Board, they instead opted to stop negotiations and pursue a rezoning that will allow them to build at least 300 homes. We'll be following this issue closely next year.
When you add in all other remarkable things that happened — the launch of Ormond Burger Week, the OBMS band recognizing former longtime band director Walter Bailey with a tribute concert, the groundbreaking for the new Tomoka Elementary, the opening of a dog beach in Ormond Beach and the long list of new businesses and cafes in town — I think it's safe to say 2023 was noteworthy.
And citizen engagement was at the center of it all. Not every community can say the same, so congrats Ormond Beach! Thank you for letting us document it all. We'll see you in 2024.