Home > Upper Moreland, Willow Grove > Upper Moreland Sonic Receives Occupancy Permit Extension

Upper Moreland Sonic Receives Occupancy Permit Extension

By Jesse Reilly
The Public Spirit

After nearly a year of discussions and numerous extensions for its temporary occupancy permit, it seems Sonic may be close to a more permanent status.

In a 5-2 vote, with Commissioners Lisa Romaniello and James McKenna dissenting, the Upper Moreland Board of Commissioners approved a 30-day extension of temporary occupancy for the Sonic that opened at the corner of Mill and Easton roads just about a year ago.

Sonic was unable to get a permanent occupancy permit due to a failure to complete a lease agreement with the state’s turnpike commission, but on Monday Josh Gantz, the township’s assistant solicitor, said the two parties had reached an agreement that will likely be finalized in the next few days.

The lease is necessary because Sonic’s close proximity to the turnpike.

Once the lease is finalized, Gantz said the township and Sonic could complete a storm-water agreement that was only waiting on the lease.

Although one Quigley Avenue resident was upset about the number of extensions the fast-food restaurant received, the majority of the commissioners stood behind the decision.

“I went along with this because there was no liability to the township,” Commissioner Donna Parsell said. “The turnpike commission is notoriously difficult to work with and I don’t see where it was a bad decision.”

To make sure the township was not liable if an agreement could not have been reached, it held a significant amount of money in escrow.

Commission Kip McFatridge agreed.

“We’ve been collecting taxes from them for a year now,” he said, adding that the process was so long because the turnpike commission would not discuss a lease agreement until Sonic completed about $50,000 worth of improvements to the turnpike’s property. “That was a big part of the hold-up right there.”

But, Commissioner Lisa Romaniello said the improvement project is no excuse.

“I have consistently voted against this project because of the way it came through committee,” she said. “[The developers] should have done their homework and anticipated that something like this could have happened, I don’t think we should be setting precedents like this.”

But Commissioner Joe Lavalle maintained that had anything gone awry the township was able to pull the plug on the operation.

“We wanted to have them come back for extensions every 30 days so we could monitor the progress,” he said. “We were always able to make them vacate the property.”

The commissioners are hopeful this will be the last extension for Sonic. If the lease is not finalized the fast-food restaurant will have to come before the board again in April.

Republished with the permission of The Public Spirit/Globe Times Chronicle

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