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Towson

Sonic drive-in planned for Baynesville Electronics site

A Sonic Drive-In is planned for the site of Baynesville Electronics near Towson, and the project's developer says he hopes to open the restaurant this summer.

Baynesville Electronics, a popular store, closed Dec. 31 after 61 years in business, according to a message on its Facebook page.

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Developer Tom Behrle, of Entourage Development, is a Sonic franchisee who has two other restaurants in Baltimore County. The restaurant chain has more than 3,500 locations in 44 states.

Behrle said he was driving by the Baynesville site Dec. 1, noticed that the store was closing and saw an opportunity for a new location.

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"It's just a great location," Behrle said. "It's an iconic, nostalgic building."

Behrle said he is not tearing down the Baynesville building and instead is reducing its size from 6,600 square feet to 2,625 square feet, the typical size of a Sonic restaurant. According to state property records, the building dates to 1945.

Behrle said he will purchase the property from John Smith Jr., the son of Baynesville Electronics founder John Smith Sr., in a deal that is still being worked out. A number listed for Smith on a county document related to the project was disconnected.

The project will maintain the store's roofline, Behrle said, something he thinks people are used to seeing on that stretch of Joppa Road.

Reusing the Baynesville Electronics building is also his way of recycling and preventing wood, metal and other scraps from entering a landfill, he said.

Nearby, a planned Starbucks coffee house has drawn scrutiny from historic preservationists because of the proposed demolition of the Bel-Loc Diner, which was built in 1964.

Behrle said he will hire 125 employees for the drive-in.

The project is making its way through Baltimore County's approval process.

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The property is inside the Loch Raven Commercial Revitalization District, an area in which new construction is subject to the review of architecture and design experts on a Design Review Panel.

That panel approved the project March 8, according to a county spokeswoman. Behrle said it was approved on the condition that he make landscaping changes and scrap plans for a rooftop sign. .

Property owners in a commercial revitalization area are eligible for incentives, such as tax credits, grants, a loan program and an on-call architect to make improvements.

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A zoning hearing is scheduled for March 31, at which the developer will seek a special exemption to use the property as a drive-in restaurant. Sonic's signature service includes servers on roller skates delivering food to parked cars.

Bill Deysher, president of nearby the Ridgeleigh Community Association, said he would like to see more street trees included in the design of the project. He is also concerned about traffic near the site, near the intersection of Joppa Road and Loch Raven Boulevard. The intersection is classified by the county as "failing," which means drivers who stop at the intersection frequently don't make it through the traffic signal in a single cycle.

Vehicles headed westbound on Joppa Road will need to cross two lanes of traffic to turn into the property, Deysher said.

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Deysher said he is also concerned that vehicles exiting the drive-in may try to make a left turn, crossing two lanes of traffic, to go west on Joppa Road. Behrle said he is going to put a right-turn only sign at the exit to prevent that from happening, citing an interest in his customer's safety.

Mandy Stepp, president of the neighboring Ridgely Manor Community Association, said she has no problem with the Sonic "in theory" but is concerned about what she says is a lack of comprehensive planning in the area to match the district's mission of revitalization.

"We seem to be getting the same types of businesses come in and it's really no different than what we had before," Stepp said.

A Sonic spokeswoman said the location is expected to open by the end of the year.




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