SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Instead of the town building a sea wall along Matunuck Beach Road, Ocean Mist owner Kevin Finnegan has proposed extending the existing stone revetment, located to the west of his property, seaward. He is willing to underwrite the cost of the project, which would include state and federal permitting.
Finnegan has appealed to Superior Court to stop construction of the town’s proposed 202-foot sheetpile sea wall along the road’s right-of-way, which has received state Coastal Resources Management Council approval and funding from the state Department of Transportation.
In a Sept. 20 letter to town officials and the state’s Congressional delegation, Finnegan’s lawyer, William Landry, argues “for a solution through which the public infrastructure on Matunuck Beach Road – as well as the beach, the business and the residences – are protected through the repair and restoration of the sea wall system further seaward, closer to the water’s edge.”
Combined with what Landry called “innovative non-structural shoreline protection measures,” extending the revetment would restore the beach in a way that enhances public access, he said
Finnegan was out of town and unavailable for comment. According to Landry’s letter, the town’s proposed sea wall would hasten the destruction of the Ocean Mist and other nearby businesses and residences.
Citing the pending litigation, Town Manager Stephen A. Alfred declined to elaborate on Finnegan’s proposal.
“We’ve offered to sit down with Mr. Finnegan to discuss not only his proposal, but to discuss the town’s construction in the area,” Alfred said.
The stone revetment currently stretches west from the Ocean Mist on property the town acquired earlier this year from the trustees of the Mary Carpenter estate. Work is expected to begin this month on the wall, though Finnegan’s appeal is still pending.
The letter comes as both the town and Finnegan have asked a Superior Court judge to expedite a decision on Finnegan’s appeal of the state Coastal Resources Management Council’s 2012 approval of the sheetpile wall.
“The Ocean Mist’s preference is not for a litigation solution, but for a cooperative approach toward protecting the public infrastructure on Matunuck Beach Road without destroying the beach and the businesses and residences that have defined the character and the culture of the area for generations,” Landry wrote.
“[The existing wall] can be restored and reassembled at its original location, much further seaward of Matunuck Beach Road and its adjacent businesses, and in a way that permits the beach to be restored – not destroyed – and permits enhanced public access,” Landry wrote in the letter.
The letter has no immediate impact on Finnegan’s pending lawsuit.
“He’s still going forward with the court suit. We’re still defending it,” Town Solicitor Michael A. Ursillo said Tuesday. “That letter does not in any way affect the proceedings in Superior Court.”
Landry said the letter solidified the stance Finnegan presented during a September meeting at Town Hall.
“We actually had a meeting at the Town Hall approximately two weeks ago with many of the people [who received the letter],” Landry said. “The letter was really a confirmation of the substance of what we presented.”
In the letter, Landry said Finnegan is prepared to underwrite the cost associated with restoring the historic wall system, including the restoration of approximately 800 feet of existing wall, along with the reconstruction of a wall within the approximately 200-foot gap west of the Ocean Mist.
In his letter, Landry does not elaborate on what permits would be required to move forward with the project, nor does he indicate a price tag for the project.