There aren’t many options remaining for parents protesting a new 7-Eleven planned beside Doby’s Bridge Elementary School.
However, Bret McNabb, listing himself as an impacted property owner, has filed an appeal with the Fort Mill Board of Zoning Appeals.
McNabb is one of the protesting parents who will meet July 9 to decide whether town planners made the right decision when they allowed the gas station beside the school.
For months parents of Doby’s Bridge students have been protesting at town council and planning commission meetings, even in front of the school itself before it let out for summer. They are upset that 7-Eleven gas pumps will be positioned just across from the school playground and the building’s air intake. Parents and students say they fear for the health of students and teachers breathing noxious fumes, or the possibility of a fire or explosion.
Town leaders say there is little if anything they can do to stop the gas station from coming. It meets current zoning and is allowed by-right. At most, town leaders say they could ask for certain design features from 7-Eleven. The project has passed appearance review from the planning commission, as well as staff review up to this point.
“The review of the gas station/convenience store plans have been paused due to the appeal application that was submitted to the Board of Zoning Appeals for consideration,” said David Broom, town manager.
In his appeal, McNabb asserts industrial or heavy manufacturing uses aren’t allowed on the property zoned within a highway corridor district specific to Fort Mill Parkway. A convenience store, he argues, is a limited industrial use.
McNabb also argues students, teachers and staff including one of his children there now and two set to start in the next few years, could suffer. As, he argues, would property values in the area.
“Doby’s Bridge Elementary would be subjected to injurious gases, fumes, odors and other conditions objectionable to those in regular attendance,” he wrote in the appeal.
Town planning staff argue both a convenience store and gas station are permitted in highway commercial zoning.
The zoning board has authority to confirm or reverse the planning staff decision. The board can issue or deny a building permit. Reviews typically involve public hearings.
Zoning appeals boards are set up to review decisions and interpretations involving land use. They can review rulings from planning staffs and commissions. Members must be trained residents in the town, city or county where they serve. They can’t be elected officials or municipal employees. Zoning appeals board decisions can only be appealed through the court system.
Boards typically make decisions when property owners believe there was an error or some hardship relating to yard setbacks, swimming pool locations or the like. They can involve developers and large properties or subdivisions.
In Fort Mill the board has a monthly scheduled meeting, but meetings often are canceled for lack of protested items. The July 9 meeting will be the first one held in Fort Mill since last October. It will be just the ninth meeting in 31 months since the beginning of 2017.
Since 2017 the board ruled in favor of the appealing party eight times, all of them variances rather than outright overruling of town planners. Those decisions changed setbacks to allow two new homes, a new duplex, a front porch, covered wooden porch, pool in front of a house, conversion of a deck to a screened-in porch and a pergola over a pool deck.
The board twice ruled against the appealing party. Denied were a setback change to allow a wooden deck and for the finished side of a wooden fence to face inward rather than away from the property owner.
Variances often find success. Overruling a planning decision is rare.
The board has to use four criteria. It has to determine there are extraordinary or exceptional conditions, that conditions apply to other property in the area and whether rules prohibit or unreasonably restrict use of the property. It also considers whether there is substantial detriment to adjacent property or the public good.