Sonic sees opposition in Nesconset

Hundreds of people and cars lined up along

Hundreds of people and cars lined up along Deer Park Avenue in North Babylon to get a taste of LI's first Sonic fast-food fare. (April 25, 2011)

When she learned a Sonic drive-in was proposed for her Nesconset neighborhood, Susan Fink visited the fast-food chain's North Babylon franchise, where she said residents told her the eatery was a nuisance.

Phil Rizzardi of Nesconset made a video of the North Babylon store, which he said showed Sonic traffic was backed up for "three miles."

Fink and Rizzardi were among more than 100 Sonic opponents Tuesday night at a public hearing before the Town of Smithtown Board of Zoning Appeals. Residents said they fear the 1950s-themed eatery -- known for roller-skating carhops who serve customers in cars -- would create too much noise and traffic.

Valley Stream-based Serota Smithtown Llc wants to build the restaurant on the southeast corner of Middle Country Road and Alexander Avenue, near Smith Haven Mall.

"This would be an environmental nightmare for us," Rizzardi said at the hearing. "There would be no way for us to get out of our houses."

Serota is asking the zoning board for variances that would allow the proposed 2,100-square-foot drive-in to have 22 loudspeakers for placing orders. Serota also wants the board to certify that Sonic is an indoor eatery with curbside service.

Opponents, including town planners, contend Sonic mainly provides outdoor service, which is banned in Smithtown without a special permit.

The zoning board will await the results of an environmental study before deciding on the variances. There is no timetable for a ruling.

At Tuesday's hearing, a team of attorneys, engineers and traffic consultants representing Sonic said they would work with neighbors to resolve issues.

"I fully understand the concerns that have been expressed," said Spencer Hart of Harrison, N.Y., who would own the Nesconset franchise.

The North Babylon store, which he owns, is "surprisingly quiet because people are eating in their cars or eating in the restaurant," he said.

More than a dozen Nesconset residents spoke in opposition to Sonic during the 2 1/2-hour hearing. No residents spoke in favor of the project.

Fink said the North Babylon Sonic "has a carnival atmosphere," including music blaring from loudspeakers and carhops buzzing around the parking lot. "It would be a very comfortable environment if it weren't in a residential neighborhood," she said.

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