Settlement clears way for second Sonic on LI at Nesconset site

A view of the Sonic restaurant at 1380 A view of the Sonic restaurant at 1380 Deer Park Ave. in North Babylon on Monday, April 14, 2014. The Smithtown Board of Zoning Appeals reached a legal settlement Tuesday with the franchisee to build the 1950s style drive-in at the southeast corner of Middle Country Road and Alexander Avenue in Nesconset. Photo Credit: James Carbone

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Long Island may soon have two Sonic restaurants with roller-skating waiters serving up burgers and shakes car-side.

The Smithtown Board of Zoning Appeals reached a legal settlement Tuesday with Valley Stream-based Serota Smithtown LLC and Cinos LLC, the franchisee, to build the 1950s-style drive-in at the southeast corner of Middle Country Road and Alexander Avenue in Nesconset.

The move was an about-face for the board.

BZA attorney Paul Hennings planned to appeal state Supreme Court Judge Daniel Martin's March decision that vacated and annulled the zoning board's November 2012 rejection of Sonic's special-exception request to build a 2,100-square-foot restaurant, amid residents' concerns about traffic, safety and other issues.

The BZA "improperly bowed to community pressure," Martin wrote in his decision, which instructed the board to reconsider Serota and Cinos' application for variances.

Hennings said Wednesday that the board ultimately decided to settle partly due to the judge's well-researched 12-page decision.

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"It would have been very difficult . . . to convince the appellate division that he was wrong," Hennings said.

In the settlement, Serota and Cinos agreed to modify the restaurant's design, removing all 20 flags atop the proposed building and reducing the square footage of signs, Hennings added. They also agreed to plant a substantial buffer along the southern property line near residences and install a fence to muffle sound and block ambient light, he said.

A total of 22 loudspeakers will be allowed, but no more than three speakers can be in use at one time. Serota and Cinos also plan to allow full access into the restaurant, but offer a right-turn-only exit from Alexander Avenue to mitigate congestion, Hennings said.

Melville attorney Bram Weber, who represents Serota and Cinos, did not return calls for comment. He has previously said his clients will "open a restaurant which serves the community well."

Sonic's only Long Island location opened in 2011 in North Babylon. The Hempstead Town Board of Appeals rejected a site in East Meadow in 2012.

Susan Fink, who lives near the Nesconset site, said she was extremely disappointed about the Alexander Avenue entrance, because she believes car lines will swell onto adjacent residential streets.

"The town is supposed to be here to uphold the quality of life for residents," she said. "They failed to do that."

But Hennings said the zoning board worked hard to recognize residents' concerns. "This was the best accommodation that we could come up with under the circumstance."

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