Nesconset residents gear up to oppose Sonic plan

A Sonic Restaurant is pictured in Oklahoma City. A Sonic Restaurant is pictured in Oklahoma City. With the high cost of gasoline, hurricanes that forced the temporary closure of hundreds of stores and even a recent shot at the company by presidential hopeful John McCain, Sonic Corp. is facing some challenges as it looks to expand its franchise. ( Oct. 1, 2008) Photo Credit: AP

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Three months after East Meadow residents helped block a proposed Sonic restaurant, officials for the drive-in eatery hope to bring their roller-skating servers to Nesconset.

Like the East Meadow plan, which was rejected in March by the Hempstead Town zoning board, the Nesconset proposal faces opposition from neighboring residents.

The Oklahoma City-based chain must first overcome the Town of Smithtown's ban of outdoor dining before it can open a 2,100-square-foot eatery next year on the southeast corner of Middle Country Road and Alexander Avenue, near Smith Haven Mall. Patrons of the 1950s-themed restaurant can place orders from and have food delivered to their cars.

The Nesconset Sonic, if approved, would be the second in Suffolk County, joining one opened last year in North Babylon. The rejected East Meadow Sonic would have been the franchise's first in Nassau County.

Sonic, through Valley Stream-based developer Serota Smithtown Llc, is asking the Smithtown Board of Zoning Appeals to approve variances allowing outdoor dining and 22 loudspeakers that customers would use to place orders. A public hearing on the request is scheduled at 7 p.m. June 26 at the town senior citizens center, 420 Middle Country Rd., Smithtown.

Melville attorney Bram Weber, who represents the developer, said the company contends Sonic is primarily an indoor, counter-service restaurant. Weber said Serota is asking the zoning board to permit curbside service as an accessory to the indoor seating. "We meet every one of the elements of the definition of a counter-service restaurant," Weber said.

But town planning director Frank DeRubeis said Sonic does most of its business outdoors. "I think it is a curbside retailer," he said. " . . . I think it's prohibited in the town."

Alexander Avenue resident Seth Weinberg, citing concerns about traffic and noise that may be caused by Sonic, said the wooded, unoccupied Nesconset property is a "silly location" for the restaurant. "That's an incredibly poor intersection for such a thing," Weinberg said. "Can you imagine Christmastime? It's hard enough to get in and out of the area."

Zoning board chairwoman Adrienne Giannadeo said she does not comment on pending applications. She said it may be several months before the board decides on the requests.

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