It’s hard to imagine anything slower than the progress of Sonic’s attempts to build a fast-food restaurant in Nesconset, but after a 4-year tussle, approval has been granted.
Progress is possible. That’s not to say that building more fast-food restaurants is the definition of progress, but the site at Middle Country Road and Alexander Avenue, across from the Smith Haven Mall, is an appropriate one. Attempts by nearby residents to stymie the project were more emotional than factual. Even so, the Town of Smithtown’s Board of Zoning Appeals rejected the Sonic in 2012 based on those complaints. However, a judge concluded the board “improperly bowed to community pressure over traffic, safety and quality-of-life issues” and vacated the denial. The judge wanted proof the restaurant would have such negative impacts, and that was proof no one could provide.
But then the board and the town, which had said they would appeal the ruling, did something much smarter, something many Long Island towns often won’t do. Rather than endlessly appealing to stop a reasonable use of property, town officials pushed for and got a set of accommodations that both neighbors and Sonic could accept. That includes shielding lights, controlling traffic flow and creating buffers between the residential area and the bustle and noise of the restaurant. This week, the town also approved a Chick-fil-A to be built in Commack, because the setting is appropriate, even though some neighbors had complained.
This is how the process ought to work. Perhaps in the future, and across the Island, it will work that way more often.