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Town: Parking, traffic reasons for rejecting Sonic drive-in

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 new Sonic in North Babylon. (April 25, 2011) Credit: Ed Betz

The Hempstead Town Board of Appeals has explained its reasons for rejecting the proposal for a Sonic drive-in restaurant in East Meadow with board members citing their concerns about traffic, parking and the restaurant’s proximity to bars.

The appeals board Friday released its findings about its March 14 vote to deny Sonic’s eight variance applications. The 1950s-style national chain wanted to open at the site of the former Rita’s Italian Ice in East Meadow Plaza, near Hempstead Turnpike and East Meadow Avenue.

The board denied the applications based on “the huge shortage of parking for the proposed use,” documents show, a shortage the board said could have a “disastrous effect” on nearby homes and businesses since patrons would try to find parking on residential streets.

The board found that the study by Sonic’s traffic and parking expert and his testimony lacked information about parking in the lot starting at 9 p.m., shortly after which two nightclubs within the shopping center would be in operation and competing for parking spaces, documents show.

Sonic’s proposed hours of operation were Sundays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to midnight, and Fridays and Saturdays until 2 a.m.

The board also noted that Sonic’s proximity to Hempstead Turnpike and its popularity would result in traffic backing up into the street.

“The proposed Sonic, if granted, will engender great curiosity and an unusual level of interest,” documents show. “This curiosity and unusual level of interest will create substantial vehicular and population increases in the area.”

Sonic can modify its application for the property, but it would be a new case with a new public hearing. It can also appeal the board’s decision to State Supreme Court, board officials said.

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