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Sonic Goes Before Town Board of Zoning Appeals

Town of Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) hears Sonic’s eight applications for the proposed East Meadow location.

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.

Jon L. March 08, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Ms. Gazzola you are wrong, the East Meadow Flick was a very small 2 screen operation located in the space now occupied by North Shore Fitness. They used to show second run feature films such as Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back and other youth oriented films during the Spring and Winter school break. I think that I saw movies there every winter break from kindergarten to third grade. The United Artists Theater that was formerly the Meadowbrook 4 was located in a building now a parking lot and Commerce Bank on Hempstead Turnpike in front of what used to be UA Plaza. Next to what used to be Newmark and Lewis Electronics and Jahn's Ice Cream.
Susan March 08, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Jon L. I believe I said that already. And according to the site I found, the Flick had 600 seats.... not so small.
Rebecca March 09, 2012 at 01:33 AM
Not in so many words, but the nightclub owner basically said at the hearing that his 1,040 customers already cause a traffic and parking issue, and therefore Sonic's 30 customers would create havoc and ruin his business. I hope the Board saw through him, but now it's just a waiting game. @Susan, most people in favor of projects do not show up at hearings or write letters. The people who show up are the ones in opposition. That's pretty standard, and that's why it's important to show up and write when you are in favor of an application.
Susan March 09, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Yes, Rebecca I do know that and I do believe I said that. After Spencer Hart spoke at last week's meeting I was under the impression that a letter would no longer be necessary. He told us that ALL the tenants were in favor of Sonic. He also seemed to satisfy everyone's complaints about parking including some ridiculous man who was worried he wouldn't have room to back out a parking spot. That man should have his license taken away as he should no longer be driving ANYWHERE. It was not even suggested to attend the meeting. Not all of us can attend meetings at 2pm on a weekday. Maybe these hearings should be in the evening as well. I STILL feel that it is NOT the residents of East Meadow's business or decision as to what business opens in the area unless that business would be particularily offenisve to most people, i.e. a nude bar, or something. Let Sonic live and be well and may it prosper for the next 25 years !!
Jon L. March 09, 2012 at 03:01 AM
My bad, reading from my mobile phone, did not read down until after I posted.
paul March 09, 2012 at 04:32 AM
To Joanna Gazzola: Maybe this will help.... Please see the advertisement.... See the address... http://bp3.blogger.com/_qleC7xLAvHg/RvgJXR9QYNI/AAAAAAAAAPc/XJTEOqPEnIA/s1600-h/JerryLewis-is-Insane.jpg It was where the North Shore Fitness is now located....
Gene March 09, 2012 at 12:41 PM
I'd be more worried about the tatoo parlors and pawn shops on Hempstead turnpike than Sonic. This shopping center has been an eyesore for years. Sonic would be a welcome addition. I don't believe traffic is an issue because the center used to be fully occupied and there were other fast food chains such as Roy Rodgers and Arby's in this area for years. Those of you in favor should submit your support to the board of zoning appeals on their website.
Yankee1996 March 09, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Support or Oppose call these clowns and let them know. Don't be silent or assume they read the Patch (or can read at all) http://townofhempstead.org/council-members
Jon L. March 09, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Yankee, according to the communication I received from Ms. Murray and Mr. Hudes they have no say in the process and it all has to go to the ZBA they can be address and filed (in the trash if you know what I mean about citizen involvement in the process) at the following link: http://toh.li/board-of-appeals/hearings-comment-form
Merrick Avenue Civic March 09, 2012 at 05:05 PM
I've uploaded a picture of the Meeting Sonic spoke at in the East Meadow High School. Very few people attended and I understand it was only announced locally on the Patch. And that's great for those who follow the Patch. But for those folks who don't use the computer as much, it would go a long way with the community if Sonic would spend a little money to do a mailing to the community and do a meeting to explain the project first hand first hand. Most people don't go to the Board of Appeals, whether they are pro or con for a project.
Susan March 09, 2012 at 05:20 PM
First of all, there were a lot more people in attendance than your photo shows. You seemed to pick the sparsest spot to make your point. Secondly, the meeting was sponsored by CEMCO and was announced at their meeting. Both the East Meadow Patch and the East Meadow Herald announced the meeting. I can't understand why you feel that Sonic needs to hold a meeting with the residents to prive themselves. This should not be the residents business. This should be between Sonic and the landlord. The residents should not be able to control what businesses come to the area. Your reasoning for not wanting Sonic here has been warped from day one. Maybe people, including myself, have countered your reasons with opposite factual information each time you've posted (I notice you are using a different name than you were before). Sonic explained things over and over again to almost everyone's satisfaction but yet you persist on riling everyone up over this when there is just no need. How anyone in East Meadow can not want a family oriented business like Sonic to come to EM Plaza is just beyond me. What do you have against people having jobs here? They will be paying taxes. Hopefully, other businesses will want to rent space in the Plaza. Sonic will be a boon for East Meadow. I think you need to take a step back and stop causing trouble where there is none. You didn't even know that Sonic information packets handed out at your own meeting. THAT alone says volumes.
Susan March 09, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Typo "prove themselves", not prive... oops.
paul March 09, 2012 at 05:33 PM
To Pat Maher AKA Merrick Avenue Civic Association: You are grasping at straws for an excuse to try to discourage public favor of Sonic. As long as it is not an unethical type of establishment it is not anything the public should be involved in. They do not have to do a public mailing. They were kind enough to go to a meeting at the high school to explain the business model, how they conduct business and how they will support the community. That should be enough. PERIOD. It appears you have an agenda, that may be political. Please keep politics out of it......
Brent M. March 09, 2012 at 05:36 PM
I think it is going to happen either way... its a buisness deal.. so some of the people of East Meadow object.. are there really going to be protests if the sonic is built?? People going to "boycott" going there ? maybe.. but is it really going to hurt the buisness because some disgruntled residents WONT go there.. ? probably not!
Merrick Avenue Civic March 09, 2012 at 05:55 PM
The East Meadow Herald never announced the East Meadow High School meeting. They weren't notified in time enough.
Susan March 09, 2012 at 06:05 PM
It was posted on Facebook. It might have even been on their website but I didn't need to look so I'm not sure.
paul March 09, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Those of us that take an interest make it their business to know. The average person leaves all that to the professionals, thats the way it should be... What did you want a sky written message and smoke signals...
paul March 09, 2012 at 06:19 PM
You are so right Timmy. I hope it is a done deal and the owner prospers.... The rest is political propaganda.....
Susan March 09, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Sky writing and smoke signals.... @Paul ... LOVE IT!!! I think it was great that the owners of Sonic even agreed to meet with the residents. They certainly didn't have to. There wasn't much time to publicize it between the CEMCO meeting and Wedensday's hearing. So the meeting was the week in between. The fact that Sonic wouldn't come to your Merrick Ave. Civic meeting also speaks volumes. You just up and started a civic assoc. to deal with your own personal agenda. Enough already.
Susan March 09, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Wednesday (oy, another typo and it won't let me delete).
Christopher March 09, 2012 at 06:26 PM
I still am unsure why anyone would be opposed to the opening of a restaurant. Parking? Traffic? Has any of the opposition been on Hempstead Turnpike lately? A Sonic is not going to make a difference in terms of traffic. What the opposition should be complaining about are the vacant stores in East Meadow. I have not seen one mention of the 24 Hour Mart (across the street of the proposed Sonic) that closed its doors. IMO, having Sonic in that location could possibly save a future business from the same fate.
paul March 11, 2012 at 04:35 AM
From the above article: "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." I am here, it is 11:30PM well past your time suggestion, on a beautiful Saturday night.... PS: I was here last night too..... Plenty of parking.. Bring on Sonic. Build it big, Build it now...
John M March 11, 2012 at 05:31 AM
@Susan You keep bringing up the argument that Sonic opening will bring other tenants into the empty buildings, but I don't think its that simple. Some of those buildings have been empty for 6+ years, what makes you think Sonic is going to fix this? If Sonic has this outstanding capability, we should build one in every town! Also, parking isnt a big problem most of the time, occasionally it is. According to your theory, when Sonic opens it will bring more tenants, and ultimately more traffic, which will severely effect the parking situation.
John M March 11, 2012 at 05:35 AM
You also seem to REALLY support this. Perhaps you work for Sonic and thats why your pushing this so much? Just kidding hahah ;-)
Susan March 11, 2012 at 07:05 AM
To John M, I actually didn't really mention parking specifically in my comments at all but really don't see that as a problem. It's a huge shopping center. Parking wasn't an issue when all the stores were filled years ago so why should it be now? The clubs aren't open when the bulk of the stores are anyway. As far as bringing in new business, a shopping center usually needs some kind of "anchor" store and Sonic has the potential to become that "anchor". If Sonic brings in more customers, other tenants might be more interested in renting. I'm cerainly not the only one who feels that way. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of Sonic itself. (I've only been to Sonic liek twice in my life). I'm just a fan of decent business coming to East Meadow and NOT a fan of empty stores!
John M March 11, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I think it would be a wonderful addition, I just cant wrap my head around why so many people are apposed
paul March 11, 2012 at 07:26 PM
To Chris: You are absolutely correct. To many people have been in tune to the local Court Jester who has been spewing negative comments from the onset.
paul March 17, 2012 at 01:30 AM
To Pat Maher: You stated to Newsday: "The board did their due diligence in investigating the issues presented to them and apparently, found fault with the application presented by Sonic," said Patricia M. Maher, president of the Merrick Avenue Civic Association, who opposed the plan. "I believed that Sonic hadn't presented sufficient information and studies to be granted the application." Please tell us all how the application process works? Why dont you tell us all the reasons it was declined, since no one else does yet? It says Political agenda all over it........
paul March 22, 2012 at 02:35 AM
The official release by the BZA has not yet been distributed. As stated by another writer it was not yet typed up for mailing. I was given the same response today in person at the TOH. If the decision is something that can be reasonably appealed I am pretty sure an attempt will be made. Keep writing/blogging all your positive comments. The right people are reading them... When an official response is received please feel let the BZA know how you feel....
paul March 25, 2012 at 02:49 AM
I was appalled when I read the Newsday article about the BZA decision on Sonic. Everyone should write a letter letting the Town of Hempstead BZA know that you were appalled about their reasoning on the decision. Please let them know that they got it WRONG. Do not let anyone tell you it is too late to send in a letter. If it is appealed then you will be one step ahead. Please write a letter and send it in. The TOH MUST know how you feel. WRITE THAT LETTER........ Board of Appeals One Washington Street Ground Floor Hempstead, NY 11550

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