After a , Sonic had its day in front of the Town of Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) on Wednesday.
The Sonic franchise’s owner, Spencer Hart, along with his counsel, William Cohn, and expert witnesses, spoke about plans for the property at 1900 Hempstead Turnpike in the East Meadow Plaza shopping center. Issues with traffic, parking, and building violations in other parts of the shopping center were touched upon in their presentation to the board.
“In East Meadow, we are excited to be here and we are hoping that East Meadow will become the first Sonic in Nassau County. We have signed a lease for 25 years with the landlord. We are very committed to this site,” Hart said.
According to the Town of Hempstead, Sonic is seeking eight applications. These include special exceptions to install a drive-thru window and use a portion of the premise for outdoor dinning, as well as variances for off-street parking. Additionally, they want to be permitted to installed 24 menu board signs under two proposed canopies, install a drive-thru preview menu and regular menu board, and install a speaker and confirmation screen system for the drive-thru.
Hart, who also owns the North Babylon Sonic, said that they have been a “good partner” to other businesses in the shopping center of that location. “We’ve gotten every single one of them to sign a letter, which expresses their support,” he added.
Prior concerns about building violations at the shopping center where discussed by the property owner’s -- 1900 Hempstead Turnpike LLC -- attorney, who said that they have met with town personnel to address the issues.
“This particular operation can bring improvements to the center, it can do it in another way,” Cohn later said. “It already has.”
Charles Olivo, a traffic expert and owner of Stonefield Engineering and Design, completed a detailed parking utilization investigation on the shopping center on behalf of the proposed Sonic. At the hearing, Olivo explained they “looked at the parking throughout the course of a typical day and Saturday.”
“What we found during the conduct of the parking utilization study is that during the course of the day when Sonic would be operating at higher levels of parking demand, there would be sufficient parking within this center,” Olivo said.
He said that during the evening peak period ,when and are operating, the parking fields near these locations are “very well utilized,” with about 80 to 90 percent occupancy. But, he added “that is not to say that other areas don’t open up as those parking levels elevate.”
“This type of use is not known…to draw a lot of new traffic to the roadway system,” said Olivo of Sonic.
Addressing traffic issues at the North Babylon location, Hart said that the sites are designed to be self-contained. Additionally, the East Meadow location will have one-way circulation and all entrance points will be within the shopping center’s boundaries – not directly from Hempstead Turnpike – which would give more room for cars to queue.
“What we would tell you is that after the initial introduction of Sonic in North Babylon, unfortunately, we no longer have the overflow of traffic,” Hart said, adding that they handled the overflow of traffic when the business opened with dedicated parkers.
Concerned residents called for a more extended and independent study -- one focusing on the time period after 9 p.m. -- on the parking situation in the area later at night because that is when the shopping center’s two nightclubs operate and take up a large number of spaces. Hart and Cohn agreed to submit another study, but BZA Chairman David P. Weiss explained that once the hearing was closed the board could no longer accept additional evidence or reports.
Weiss added that a member of the board would be going over late at night to examine the parking situation at the location before making a final decision on the matter.
The applications will now be placed on the board’s decision calendar and the applicants will be notified of the final decision via mail.