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Developer: Plans for Sonic restaurant in Riverhead are moving forward

The proposed Sonic Drive-In restaurant across from Apple Honda on Route 58 is back, and, according to one of the principals in the project, it never left.

Following a Jan. 2016 public hearing during which some speakers raised concerns about the project, the application hadn’t been on any Riverhead Town planning agendas for more than a year, and town planning and building administrator Jeff Murphree said in May that he hadn’t heard from Sonic since the hearing.

In addition, Kirstie Russell, a spokesperson for Sonic’s corporation headquarters, told the News-Review by email earlier this year, “At this time, Sonic does not have confirmed plans to share for a new drive-in in Riverhead; however, we are constantly evaluating opportunities to expand in new markets to meet consumer demand, and our goal is to have a Sonic convenient to all customers. We think Riverhead would make a great market for Sonic.”

Sonic was back on the town Architectural Review Board agenda Wednesday with essentially the same plan and same owners, according to Bob Fanelli, one of the partners in the application.

Asked after the meeting what the delay was, he said, “There wasn’t a delay, we were working all along.”

He said they had to go before the state Department of Environmental Conservation due to the proximity of wetlands near the site, and they needed sewer approval.

The proposal didn’t run into difficulty at the ARB Wednesday.

“You’re probably heading toward preliminary approval,” ARB chairman Roy Sokoloski told the applicants.

The project still needs site plan approval from the town Planning Board.

The plans are similar to the ones that were subject to public hearing in Jan. 2016, with a a 2,579 square-foot restaurant with 44 indoor seats, 16 patio seats and 22 drive-in parking stalls under canopies where customers can order food from their cars through kiosks.

Site plan showing proposed Sonic Drive-In on Route 58.

Like all Sonic restaurants, it will also have employees on roller skates delivering food to customers who order from their cars.

The 1.8-acre property is also slated to have a 5,250 square-foot future one-story retail building to the west of the property which will not be immediately built.

The site plan shows both left and rights turns in and out from Osborn Avenue, which has a traffic signal on Route 58. The plan also proposes right and left turns into the store from Route 58, and right turns only leaving the site and going onto Route 58.

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Photo: A Sonic restaurant in North Babylon (Credit: Tim Gannon)