The city of Ormond Beach is saying no to Belvedere Terminals. No utilities. No annexation.
"Not no, but heck no," Mayor Bill Partington said at the City Commission meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 20. "This city will not provide utilities for a project that is so adverse to our residents' quality of life."
The commission unanimously approved two motions at its meeting stating that the city has no desire or intention to provide utilities and annexation to Belvedere Terminals, which is pursuing the construction of a 16-tank fuel storage terminal at 874 Hull Road.
"I don't know if that will stop the project, but I think it's important that this company knows that we're going to battle them at every level, at every angle, at every possible time and opportunity to make sure that this project never happens, and we'll drag it out for years and spend as much money as you have to spend," Partington said.
The St. Petersburg-based company is planning to invest about $750 million in the state by constructing a total of 10 fuel terminals within the next five years, it announced on Sept. 19. Belvedere states the first of three sites to be developed will be in Jacksonville, followed by spurs in Ormond Beach and Ft. Pierce.
“As a sixth generation Floridians myself, we are beyond excited to begin working to develop Belvedere Terminal’s locations in Florida and bring more than $750 million in capital investment with more than 200 jobs to the state," said Belvedere Terminals President Edwin Cothron in a recent press release. "Our Belvedere Terminals system will use state-of-the-art railcars and sites that will set new industry standards for operational safety. This new system for fuel delivery will help lower gas prices for consumers and offer a safer and more dependable method for getting fuel into the state that is not subject to port shutdowns when a hurricane forms."
Belvedere Terminals Chief Operating Officer Mike Benedetto told the Observer in a statement that his company is reviewing the city's actions.
Though the property is located in unincorporated Volusia County, Ormond Beach would typically be the utility provider.
City Attorney Randy Hayes said that, after numerous conversations with county staff, it was determined that Ormond Beach has the legal right to deny utilities because the property is not part of an existing interlocal boundary agreement with the county for the provision of utilities, and, it's not within an established utility service area.
Additionally, Hayes said that the city will be filing an amended petition to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in the name of local company SR Perrott — whose headquarters abut the property at Hull Road — regarding the circumstances surrounding the issuance of the Aug. 1 air construction permit. The city aims to do that by Monday.
"We feel pretty confident in that individual issue, so that's what we intend to do," Hayes said.
The city stated in a press release Thursday that factors influencing the decision not to provide utilities or annex include "the project's close proximity to crucial community assets such as the City’s Youth Sports Complex, residential zones, and critical watersheds like the Tomoka River. The potential strain on local infrastructure, traffic, and the increased demand for emergency services have also been a part of these concerns."
Nobody wants to be sued, but if it comes down to that, the liability of having a fuel farm in town is higher than a lawsuit, City Commissioner Lori Tolland said at the meeting.
"This is just something that we all know we don't want," she said. "We've never wanted it, and ... I do think we just need to continue this battle and fight in every way."
Prior to the commission meeting, a group of about 20 residents stood at the base of the Granada Bridge with signs protesting Belvedere Terminals.
One resident, Tony Iorlano, called the company's fuel farm proposal "a Stephen King novel in the making." The location — so close to schools, the Ormond Beach Sports Complex and the Ormond Beach Municipal Airport — is terrible, he said.
"I will fight this thing all the way," Iorlano said.
Ormond Beach resident Robin Magleora, who organized the protest at the bridge and helped distribute signs, said the citizens are ready to mobilize whenever is needed.
"If you need us to do anything, you let us know — we'll be there," Magleora said. "We'll hold signs on bridges. We'll hold rallies. We'll do whatever you need to help us get this stopped, because you have the power to do it. We reminded you of that, and I hope that in the future, that this never happens again."
City Commissioner Travis Sargent said the city's response to the citizen outcry shows the process is working, and that the city manager has taken steps to increase transparency and communication regarding projects coming before the city's Site Plan Review Committee. Included in the budget, he added, is a website redesign and streaming services to make commission meetings more accessible to the public.
"These are all things that we need to bring transparency back to the public," Sargent said.
City Commissioner Harold Briley said the city has always backed its citizens' opposition to the proposal — it just took a while to determine what legal steps could be taken. He also spoke about how the shipments by train could delay, and endanger, the children utilizing the Ormond Beach Sports Complex, as well as any emergency response in that area.
"That's a public safety issue and we have to look out for the people," Briley said.
Commissioner Susan Persis said Belvedere Terminals needs to go someplace else — and nowhere near Ormond Beach.
"I think we're all against it," Persis said. "We've been against it. It's not right for our city. It's unsafe for our residents, for our children. It's not the right place."
And finding a place in Volusia County may prove to be a challenge.
Port Orange Mayor Don Burnette, representing the Volusia League of Cities, spoke before the commission at its meeting, reporting that Partington came before the league's executive board asking for support fighting the fuel farm issue. The board of the Volusia League of Cities — of which all 16 Volusia municipalities are members — unanimously approved a resolution of support to fight Belvedere's proposal. After speaking with several other elected officials in other cities, many have added the resolution to their agendas to support Ormond Beach.
"There's nobody outside of this city that isn't with you," Burnette said. "... This is not an Ormond Beach problem. This is a Volusia problem. We don't want it, not in your city, but in this county."
During the meeting, Partington received an email of support from Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower, thanking the commissioners for their "bold action."
"This indeed sends a strong message to Belvedere and your residents," Brower's email read. "Please know you have my full support."
Correction: A previous version of this story reported an interviewed resident name was Tommy Iorlano. This is incorrect. His name is Tony Iorlano.