Sonic, America's Drive-In, (a hamburger and shake joint with drive-through, and car-hop service,) earned city approval Thursday for a restaurant in the parking lot of Expect Discount and Nardelli's Restaurant on Newtown Road.
Work on the restaurant is expected to start in the spring.
The restaurant in the parking lot will force drivers to change how and where they drive in the lot. A Sonic restaurant is so popular and it attracts so many cars, the city's review largely focused on how cars will come and go from the lot and where they will line up for the restaurant's drive-through and car-hop service. The plan forced the city's planning officials to review the traffic pattern in the lot and in the neighborhood. The state Traffic Commission reviewed the plan and approved it, as did the city.
Sean Hearty, the permit center coordinator, said the traffic issue in the Expect Discount parking lot was complicated. He said the city had already approved a restaurant on this same spot in 2007 (at that time it was a Starbuck's with 24-hour drive-through service,) but that was never built. Sonic avoided commission review because of the previous approval. The planning staff reviewed this proposal and approved it Thursday.
Although the restaurant was approved, it's unfortunate that the proposal didn't go through the hands of the planning commission where this issue could have a full public hearing as opposed to the issue being handled by a department.
Somehow, the law giving applications the ability to avoid commissions should be reviewed. Just because a site was previously approved doesn't mean the new applicant fits the exact same dynamics as the previous applicant
For example, Elmer's Diner was able to avoid certain commission reviews because it technically fit within the same site footprint as the previous property's owner, Ann's Place, although the diner generated considerable more traffic than anything that would had come from Ann's Place. In short, because the city originally approved the Ann's Place's site footprint, because Elmer used the exact same footprint for his diner, he was able to get his place build in the location although it's clearly located in an unsuitable location.
In this particular case, there's a world of difference between a drive-in coffee shop and a car hop restaurant...
To say traffic on Newtown Road is congested is an understatement (how many times have people tried to make a left onto Newtown Road from Dunkin' Donuts). Although there is a traffic light at the Expect Discounts lot, traffic flow in that area is very tricky and can become VERY congested at certain times throughout the day. Lets hope that the location of this restaurant does not make a bad traffic situation more complicated for commuters.
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