Business owners against planned beach barrier in Matunuck

Business owners and others are fighting the town of South Kingstown over the construction of a sheet-pile wall along Matunuck Beach Road.

To date, they've collected more than 10,000 signatures on a petition to fight it.

"It's not just the Ocean Mist, it's the culture of Matunuck," said Kevin Finnegan.

Finnegan owns the Ocean Mist, a beach bar, and the wall that will be replaced is planned to go from the western property line of his business east about 200 feet.

He and other business owners said the new wall would put their businesses and jobs at risk.

"Some of my engineers and their engineers agree that it's possible that the construction of their wall would do undue harm to my building during the construction, let alone if there's a storm," Finnegan said.

He said the water would hit the new wall and dissipate in such a way that could harm the structures which hold up the Ocean Mist.

Town Manager Steven Alfred told NBC 10 he's been trying to work out a compromise to protect the Ocean Mist including installing mini piles and performing pre-construction surveys.

So far, no deal.

"They've refused to cooperate with us," Alfred said.

Alfred said preserving the road is imperative to maintain emergency access to 240 residents, and to protect a water line which supplies more than 1,600 commercial and residential structures.

"The town's responsibility first and foremost is public health and safety," he said.

While Alfred says he's sympathetic with business owners he also said it's not the town and its plans to build the new wall which is threatening the businesses. He said its erosion.

When asked to respond to the petition that's 10,000 signatures strong, Alfred said, "My response is the town's responsibility is to the community's health and safety."

Business owners feel differently.

Finnegan is asking the town to restore what's already in place.

Alfred said there was discussion about repairing and rebuilding the existing stone structure, but said it can't be built high enough to do the job to protect the road behind it.

Construction was scheduled to begin in the fall but Alfred said he's expecting further litigation.