Matunuck Businesses Support Maintenance of Existing Seawall Over Town’s Plan
South Kingstown – The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council’s (CRMC) June 24 meeting spurred a call to action from local business owners in support of the efforts of Kevin Finnegan to rebuild the existing stone revetment on Town property adjacent to his Ocean Mist on Matunuck Beach Road.
The meeting drew near to 100 concerned residents, supporters and business owners vested in the outcome of the Town’s response presentation given under court ordered remand. The remand required CRMC to further consider the Town’s planned mitigation of adverse environmental impact and use conflicts.
In an interview on Tuesday, Finnegan expressed his concern about the community of Matunuck.
“The problem is that three years ago I was trying to organize this and people would say, ‘They will never close the Ocean Mist – no way,’ said Finnegan. “Now, with the petition, 8,000 signatures, people are getting behind it. [The] people will speak. This is a nice little microcosm of America. This is what should happen.”
The 3 hour meeting was product of an action filed by Hang Ten, LLC (aka the Ocean Mist) against the Town of South Kingstown, resulting from the town’s intention to build a previously approved 202 ft. sheet pile wall on abutting property now owned by the town.
“We should find a solution to the problem for the community as opposed to any one constituent,” – Fran O’Brien
“I’ve been listening to this for several years now,” said Fran O’Brien, owner of Tara’s Tipperary Tavern which sits next door to the Ocean Mist. “It sounds to me that the Town has a problem, that they have to protect the road. That’s a valid problem. The businesses have a problem, they’ve got to protect their businesses.”
Matunuck success dependent upon community solution
O’Brien entreated the council to assist the community in finding a mutually sound solution.
“The employees of those businesses, almost a hundred of them, have a problem. If this place is let go, isn’t saved somehow, then they don’t have jobs anymore. And the association across the street and the people who could be denied emergency services. Everyone has problems. I wish we would look and I implore the council to try to help us find a way that addresses the community’s problem instead of the problems of any of its constituents.”
O’Brien also expressed his support for rebuilding the stone revetment.
“My feeling personally, I’m not an engineer either. Clearly, it sounds like straight up walls create problems. I think the most important question then is where is that located? If it causes damage to the left and right, and if it’s forward seaward – to the left and right presently there are stone revetments. There’s a revetment to the west. There’s also a revetment to the east and getting scoured in between, I think. So I would favor in front, as Kevin said earlier.
“Then it’s deflected along the beach as opposed to being behind the building which then takes the building out.” O’Brien went on to say that any ocean breach of the road generally happens west of the proposed seawall location towards the Vanilla Bean and Town Beach.
With regard to use conflicts, O’Brien said, “I believe if you go today, the gate is padlocked and says no trespassing.”
Maintenance assent for existing seawall easiest road possible
According to Hang Ten LLC’s president, Kevin Finnegan, construction of the sheet pile wall directly adjacent to his business would prove detrimental to the building, business and cause economic hardship for his more than 70 employees. Finnegan believes that the Town should maintain the existing rip rap stone armament structure that is already there and in many years of disrepair.
“Whoever owns that – you can walk in there, whoever owns that, just like Taylor Swift, just like anybody and apply for a maintenance assent, said Finnegan. “They have to give it to you.”
Bob Fox, owner of Matunuck Surf Shop just a few short blocks up the street from the Ocean Mist, agreed with Finnegan. Fox, who attended the meeting but did not speak, was unclear as to why the Town didn’t pursue the maintenance assent for the existing seawall on the property in question.
Fox’s thought processes followed that of Finnegan when it came to protecting his business and property. “I think it’s the way it was going to go anyway,” he said.
Speaking as to Finnegan’s aversion that the wave action and return would wreak destruction upon the Ocean Mist and properties to the east of the sheet pile wall, Fox concurred that the existing seawall and revetment were a more practical solution.
“The return’s going to cause trouble, but so will everything else. So if you did the return, did it properly and kind of put it through the existing wall that they don’t want to rebuild – which is crazy because it worked for fifty (50) years until it fell apart – you could dissipate all the power of the surf, the waves returning to the ocean and it really won’t scour it all out. I think they need somebody to engineer that correctly.”
Finnegan’s property allowed beach access
As to the use conflicts, Fox has no recollection of beach access across the Town’s property.
“I don’t ever remember it,” said Fox.
“I remember when they took down the Seaview, the building. It was still gated. On either side, there was a fence but it was attached to both sides of the building. I don’t ever remember that being open where you could walk along that wall.”
Beach access to that portion of the headlands was located through Finnegan’s property at the Ocean Mist. “He put it once on one side of the property until he put up his addition,” said Fox. “Then he put it on the other side. He has always had beach access except for the time when he was building the addition, which was only 9 months.”
If the road failed, and the Ocean Mist and Tara’s were to close, Fox says his walk-in business would be impacted.
“It would affect my walk-in business. People who come down here to purchase something, like on Saturday mornings – let’s go get a paddle board, usually have a plan in mind. But the walk-in business of people going to the Mist or leaving the Mist-stopping in to buy a t-shirt or do this, it totally affects.”