Fort Mill SC school protest fights new gas station
Doby’s Bridge Elementary School parents aren’t taking “no” for an answer.
At least a dozen of them lined sidewalks Monday morning alongside the steady flow of traffic into and out of school, protesting the proposed 7-Eleven that has been approved to go just beside the school.
Land already is cleared for the convenience station along Fort Mill Parkway. It sits just beside the school playground. The project is well past the planning stages that typically hold up controversial construction. It has the needed zoning. It has commercial appearance review from the town.
However, parents say they won’t stop trying to find some way to stop to the gas station construction.
“We feel this is an important enough issue to band together and stand up against the developer and against the town that unfortunately has ignored our requests for help,” said Erin Bowman, one of many out protesting Monday morning.
Parents worry gas vapors so close to the playground and the school air intake will present a health risk. They also worry about potential fires or explosions so close to the school.
“That gas station has no business being built so close to a school where over 1,000 kids are playing outside and go to school ever single day,” Bowman said.
Monday morning wasn’t the first time parents gathered. They’ve rallied online and at school board meetings. The same for town council meetings, and the town planning commission meeting where that group approved appearance standards for the project. At that planning commission meeting, several town planners explained to protestors little if anything can be done to avoid the 7-Eleven.
The planning group can recommend for or against a zoning change. Town council can vote for or against proposed zoning. The 7-Eleven project doesn’t need rezoning. Instead a gas station is allowed by-right on property zoned for highway commercial use, which the site is. That zoning pre-dates the construction of Doby’s Bridge Elementary.
James Traynor, planning commission chairman, responded to residents at his group’s May 21 meeting where the group asked what the town could do to stop the construction.
“They can’t,” he said.
Protesters Monday morning spoke of continued pressure they intend to put on council members. Some spoke of running for elected office in hopes of replacing people they feel aren’t representing them.
Bowman said she understands not everyone agrees with her group or is as passionate about it as she is. But, she believes, many more should be.
“We have an uphill battle,” Bowman said. “But if you do the research, there are groups out there all the time that are beating big companies that are coming into communities and building big gas stations, because it’s a health hazard. So if we don’t stand up? We’re not going to just lay down and let the developer put something harmful in our neighborhood.”