CARY, NC (WTVD) -- There's no way to put up a roadblock, so at best they're trying to set up a speed bump.
As the controversial plan to build a gas station and convenience store near Hortons Creek Elementary School awaits its imminent green light, dozens of families picketed along the proposed site on Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to make a change.
"It's a dangerous commercial establishment to have a gas station selling cigarettes and liquor right here next to the school," neighbor Nadine Dunn told ABC11. "The Town of Cary has failed us."
The residents, whose petition opposing the development attracted about 1,700 signatures, now hope to meet with the developer and persuade him to alter some of his plans to alleviate their concerns.
"If the gas station has to be here, let's make it more friendly to the people living here," neighbor Ashwani Kaul told ABC11. "Let's not have it be a 24-hour operation, let's reduce the number of pumps. Let's make it a little more friendly."
Officially called the Amberly-C Development, the plans were submitted last year by Raleigh-based Eagle Enterprises, and documents show the proposal is for a six-pump gas station, convenience store, and a potential drive-thru restaurant on the corner of O'Kelly Chapel Road and Stonecroft Lane.
Because that parcel was already zoned commercially, Eagle Enterprises did not have to appear in a quasi-judicial setting before the Planning and Zoning Committee of the Town Council.
According to Town officials, all of the surrounding area - including the site of Hortons Creek Elementary - had been zoned commercially since 2002 to secure a bigger shopping center. Instead, the subsequent economic recession altered plans and the area was rezoned in 2015; the location of the school was rezoned into offices and some surrounding area was rezoned into residential.
RELATED: Approved zoning uses per 2002 amendment (.pdf)
City planners, however, kept a small sliver of land zoned commercial and available.
"We look to have services close to where people live so people don't have to travel far to get what they need in their day to day life," Meredith Gruber, an Urban Planner with the Town of Cary, explained to ABC11 last month. "We often like to see businesses that residents can walk to because it makes life better to save time. We hope places are designed so people can meet their needs in an easy fashion."
Gruber met with ABC11 again Thursday and acknowledged the residents' concerns. As to what can be done to alleviate residents' worries, Gruber said there are what she calls "strict" landscaping requirements that will include tall trees and shrubs. She added that the town is looking at ways to reduce traffic in the area, such as speed bumps.
"We're going to think outside the box and see if we can come up with creative solutions."
Cary residents try one more time to stop controversial gas station