Smithtown zoning board rejects restaurant

An order with a chili cheese hot dog, An order with a chili cheese hot dog, "Blast," fries and drinks rests on a table at the Sonic in North Babylon. (April 25, 2011) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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Smithtown has become Long Island's second town to block a proposed Sonic restaurant.

As opponents waved signs reading, "Say No to Sonic" and "Sonic Has No Business in My Back Yard," the town Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-2 on Tuesday to reject a proposed 2,100-square-foot restaurant at Middle Country Road and Alexander Avenue in Nesconset.

About 100 opponents at the hearing applauded the vote. In March, the Town of Hempstead rejected a proposed Sonic drive-in in East Meadow.

Critics of both proposals cited noise and traffic among their concerns. Nesconset residents said Sonic -- which encourages customers to place orders through loudspeakers at parking spaces -- would disturb neighborhood peace.

"We're not against Sonic," said Alexander Road resident Susan Fink. "We're against it on a residential street."

Sonic representatives did not return calls Wednesday seeking comment. Restaurant officials could seek to have the zoning board's decision overturned by court order, or they could submit a revised plan.

Town assistant planning director David Flynn said the proposal "could be redesigned" to win town approval but other available sites in Smithtown that do not adjoin residential neighborhoods are better suited for fast-food restaurants. He did not offer specific locales.

Sonic had asked the zoning appeals board to approve variances allowing 22 loudspeakers for customers to place orders from parking stalls.

Flynn, in a lengthy review of Sonic's proposal, said noise caused by the loudspeakers was a "significant concern." He added that the proposal did not provide enough parking, and cars lined up for a drive-through window would block vehicles parked in stalls.

Traffic at a Sonic restaurant in North Babylon spills into nearby streets, Flynn said. "If vehicles back up on Middle Country Road, they will be in the traffic lane, and this will present a safety hazard," he said.

Flynn backed off earlier statements by town officials who said Sonic's plan to offer curbside service would be barred under town zoning law. Flynn said it is allowed.

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