Rick Hayes is shown in this screen-grab from his Facebook video.

Efforts by the Town of Fort Mill, the school district and 7-Eleven to address concerns by Doby’s Bridge parents with changes to gas station layout are “not what we want,” a protest organizer said Saturday.

   The town recently voted to change guidelines that allow the station’s orientation to be rotated, placing the pumps and underground storage tanks on the Fort Mill Parkway side of the facility and away from Doby’s Bridge Elementary School. In addition, the company agreed to install vapor recovery systems, vegetation and other barriers to screen the property between the station and the school.

   Protest organizer Rick Hayes said Saturday that the group will need a few days to prepare a formal response. Meanwhile, he posted a video outside the school expressing his disappointment in the actions.  

    “Yes, they are pushing it back 100 feet. So it’s going to be, what, 400 feet away from the school? That is still really close,” Hayes said. “They are going to put trees up. Criminals can hide in those trees, reach over the fence, grab the kids and be out of sight.”

   Hayes said the group of parents have not given up.

   “Yes, we have won a little bit, but it’s not what we want,” he said.

Doby’s Bridge parents are concerned about the closeness of the gas station to the school playground.

   The reaction comes four days after parent Bret McNabb lost a close decision by the Fort Mill Board of Zoning Appeals to keep the town from allowing the gas station to be built. McNabb unsuccessfully argued that town zoning officials erred in allowing the gas station to move forward since laws prohibit “industrial or heavy manufacturing uses.”

   In separate statements released on Friday, the Town of Fort Mill and the school district reassured parents that they have taken their concerns seriously.

   “While this project has already met the review and approval criteria for siting, we take concerns from our residents seriously and have engaged with experts in the field,” the town’s statement said. 

   Even with the landscape changes, town staff, administrators and elected officials “remain committed to our residents and will continue to act in the best interests of our community,” the statement said.

   The town statement quoted information from DHEC, including:

  • Gas stations are designed and built to prevent release of liquid or vapors to the environment during all phases of operation. Since DHEC’s adoption of their latest regulations in 2008, 27 facilities have been installed in York County with 80 double-walled underground storage tank systems and there have been no reported releases.
  • Federal regulations require that gasoline cannot contain more than 1.3 percent of benzene, though gasoline usually only contains 0.6 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classify benzene as a known human carcinogen, however gasoline is not classified as a known human carcinogen because benzene is present in such low concentrations. 

   In the school district statement, officials reassured parents that the level of vapors emitted by the proposed gas station “pose no health or safety concern to the surrounding community.” District officials cited 14 organizations that they consulted in their research, including the Environmental Protection Agency.

   The school district also addressed crime concerns: “As with any school location there is a risk for crime in the area or an accident at a surrounding location. The district has a security plan in place at each school to deal with these types of situations and we work very closely with law enforcement anytime there is a concern near a school.”

   The statement says that the district learned from DHEC experts that accidents involving fire at gas stations are rare, but the town and county Emergency Management and First Responders have plans in place to deal with any incident that could occur. 

   “The district also maintains emergency evacuation plans for all schools should the need arise,” the statement says.