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Firm takes town to court over Sonic rejection

Backers of a proposed Sonic in Nesconset have asked a state court to set aside a Smithtown zoning board decision to reject the drive-through restaurant.

An attorney for Cinos, the Harrison-based company that sought to build a Sonic on Middle Country Road, said Thursday the town Board of Zoning Appeals ruled incorrectly in November when it denied a permit and variances for the project.

The board, in a 3-2 vote, said traffic and noise generated by a 2,100-square-foot restaurant -- across the street from the Smith Haven Mall -- would disturb residents of nearby Alexander Avenue. Cinos representatives had argued noise and traffic would be no problem.

"The applicant put forth significant, substantial evidence . . . in order to build a comprehensive record for the board to make an educated decision," Cinos attorney Bram Weber of Melville, said Thursday in an interview. "We believe they made the wrong decision."

Weber last month filed an Article 78 petition in State Supreme Court challenging the zoning appeals board decision. A judge can uphold the board's decision, overturn it or order the panel to reconsider.

A hearing date has not been set. A decision is expected in three to six months.

Town planning director Frank DeRubeis and zoning appeals board chairwoman Adrienne Giannadeo declined to comment.

Alexander Avenue resident Susan Fink, who opposes the restaurant, said she was "distressed" the board's decision could be overturned. "I am concerned for my neighbors and my neighborhood," she said. "I hope they are not successful."

Smithtown's rejection of the Nesconset Sonic came months after the Town of Hempstead turned down a proposed Sonic in East Meadow. Cinos did not seek a court order to overturn the Hempstead decision.

Cinos, which owns Long Island's only Sonic franchise, in North Babylon, had requested a special exception permit for the Nesconset restaurant and variances to allow 22 loudspeakers for customers to place orders. Sonic is known for roller-skating carhops who deliver food to patrons in their cars.

Cinos representatives had argued that traffic studies showed Sonic would not cause a significant traffic increase, and the restaurant would be far enough from homes that residents would not find it objectionable.

But residents at a packed public hearing in June said they feared traffic from Sonic would back up on Alexander Avenue.

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