Sonic Drive-in features "carhop" stalls where Sonic employees personally deliver meals to customers waiting in their cars. Photo: Sonic Drive-In

A Sonic Drive-in won’t be opening at the Osborn Avenue-Route 58 site approved last month for a drive-in restaurant by the Riverhead Planning Board, the developer of the site told RiverheadLOCAL in an email Monday.

Town approvals took too long, according to Marc Kitchhoff of Inheritance Development, which owns the 1.78-acre property.

“The years to collectively procure all necessary project approvals exceeded their limits,” Kirchhoff said in the email.

When the developer initially filed the site plan application in in 2015, it named the popular fast-food restaurant known for its unique “carhop” service as the tenant for a proposed 2,590-square-foot, 60-seat restaurant. A Sonic franchisee told town officials he’d signed a 30-year lease on the site.

The application required site plan approval from the Planning Board, a special permit from the Town Board and setback variances form the Zoning Board of Appeals.

By late 2020, Sonic had already backed out of the site, Planner Greg Bergman told the Planning Board. The developer wanted to proceed with the site plan for a drive-in fast food restaurant “in an attempt to lure Sonic back to the site,” Bergman said at the Nov. 19, 2020 Planning Board meeting.

Bergman reiterated the statement about the developer’s intention at a Planning Board meeting last month, when the board voted to grant final site plan approval to Inheritance Development. It was the last town approval required, as a Town Board special permit and the required variances from the ZBA had already been granted.

The developer’s land-use attorney, Kimberly Judd, referred questions about the status of negotiations with Sonic to the developer.

Kitchhoff said Inheritance Development is “actively seeking tenants that will conform to the Planning Board approval.”

“We are optimistic this corner with access on Osborn Ave. and Old Country Road will be valuable for both retail and food businesses desiring to expand in the growing Riverhead market,”Kitchhoff said.

In addition to the fast-food restaurant, the approved site plan includes a 5,000-square-foot retail building. The site has frontage on both Osborn Avenue and Route 58.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.