A group of Doby Bridge Elementary School parents protest in front of the school district offices on June 4, 2019. (Photo by Greg Rickabaugh)

The Fort Mill Sun posed 10 questions to Rick Hayes, group organizer for “Families Against Endangering Our Kids.”

1. What is the latest in the efforts by Doby’s Bridge parents to stop the gas station from being built near the elementary school? I understand you had a conference call with the regional EPA on Wednesday.

Hayes: “We continue to talk with experts such as the EPA, researchers, attorneys and communities who have been faced with similar challenges to determine how we will stop the gas station from being built so close to Doby’s Bridge Elementary School. We remain hopeful that the Town Council and Fort Mill School District Board of Trustees will also join us in this discussion, so we can all work together to keep our children and teachers safe. However, this has yet to happen after many attempts to engage with them.”

Rick Hayes is shown here with wife Christina Hayes in 2017 as they celebrated the start of their new house in Massey subdivision.

2. The group that attended the school board meeting on Tuesday seemed unsatisfied with the response they got. Can you tell me where you are with the school system?

Hayes: “The parents who attended Tuesday’s school board meeting were not happy with Kristy Spears’ response to our concerns. Her comments simply do not indicate that any steps are actually being taken by the school board to address this matter. She has referenced certain communications that have taken place, or are ongoing, but has yet to provide any detail as to whether the school board agrees with or is concerned about any of the topics raised by the community. Not only has her inability to take a stance on this issue been frustrating, but her demeanor and tone have been condescending and disrespectful. If Ms. Spears and/or the school board does not care about this issue, the least they could do is tell us as much.”

3. What about the town council? Do you expect more protests at next week’s meeting? And what are you asking the town to do?

Hayes: “The Town Council has a responsibility to make good decisions about the development of our community in a way that supports both business and population growth. The development of this gas station in such close proximity to the school is far from responsible. We continue to hear from them that there is nothing they can do as the parcel is zoned highway commercial and a permissible use includes a gas station. However, there is something they can do. The Town Council, the Planning Commission, Zoning Administrator or the landowner, have the opportunity to amend the zoning ordinance. We want the Town Council to amend the zoning ordinance to ensure a safe distance of 1,000 feet between the gas station and school. Governing bodies can change the ordinance if they feel there is a health or safety risk to the community. We have presented research showing the risks involved and hope they will see why this is not an appropriate location for the gas station and take action now.

“Until the Town Council begins to work with us to end the possibility of gas stations from being built dangerously close to schools in our district, parents, children and other concerned citizens across the community will continue to show-up to the meetings.”

4. You are raising money for an attorney. How is that going, and what do you hope to accomplish legally?

Hayes: “Fundraising is going well, but just got started and we will continue to direct donations to our Facebook and GoFundMe fundraiser pages. We want to make sure we maximize the number of avenues we have to finding a solution and any of these pursuits will cost money.”

5. You’re getting lots of media attention, but some commenters on Facebook are blasting your group for over-reacting. One commenter said you were making too big a deal about a gas station near a school and suggested you should be equally concerned about cars running in the school pick-up line. How do you respond?

Hayes: “Idling in the pick-up line is prohibited as you can see from the numerous signs posted requiring drivers waiting in the pick-up line to turn off their engines. The fact that idling is a topic the school has already addressed is further proof that the toxic fumes children and teachers will be subjected to daily from the gas station are a serious concern. Frankly it seems the school has taken a contradictory position by taking action against one of these matters, but not the other, given their similarities. That being said, the extended exposure to toxic fumes caused by the gas station has been proven in a number of studies to cause major health issues. You can find links to some of these studies here: https://www.kidshealthandsafety.com/our-research

6. Your groups’ protesting methods have been pretty aggressive by some accounts, including protesting in front of a councilman’s house and being told by police to move off property owned by developer Taylor Morrison. Do you feel your group is too aggressive?

Hayes: “Our demonstrations have, and will continue to be, directed only toward those directly responsible for allowing or enabling the gas station that will be build less than 300 feet from the school. As long as the parties involved continue to ignore our requests for reasonable consideration of this matter, we will be encouraged to engage in methods we hope will reach our audience. However, under no circumstance will our group condone or tolerate violent or illegal activity. You must understand though that not every concerned resident expresses their disapproval through or at the direction of our group. To our knowledge, no members of this group protested at a councilman’s home.”

7. Have you spoken with 7-Eleven?

Hayes: “No. After many emails and phone calls to 7-Eleven, the only reaction we’ve received is a generic response from their customer service department, saying management would get back to us. We have yet to receive a response from management.”

8. If your effort fails to stop the gas station, what are your other options?

Hayes: “The foundation for the gas station has yet to be laid. There are still a number of steps that need to be taken before the project is complete. An opportunity to stop the gas station from being built still exists. We are not giving up on stopping this, but would welcome discussions with the involved parties to see if there is some other amicable solution.”

9. Any other comments?

Hayes: “We think the Fort Mill Southern Bypass is a great location for a gas station as it will be convenient for the many commuters who travel to and from Fort Mill on their way to work. With many opportunities for development along this corridor, there must be a location that provides the same convenience without endangering the health and safety of the students and teachers at Doby’s Bridge Elementary School. The current location is just too close to school.”

10. How can we show our support and stay informed on the progress to stop this gas station from being built next to Doby’s Bridge Elementary School?
Hayes: “Visit www.kidshealthandsafety.com where you can find links to our social media accounts, fundraisers and research. Help us by sharing content and using the hashtags #FamiliesProtectingFortMill or #HelpDBES.”