ALONG THE WATERFRONT: Kevin Finnegan, owner of the Ocean Mist Beach Bar in the Matunuck village in South Kingstown, has been proactive on erosion-control measures to protect his beachfront business, but has expressed skepticism regarding new erosion rules.
Beach erosion may seem unstoppable to seaside business communities in South Kingstown and Westerly, but new rules designed to allow experimentation to curb it could provide some short-term relief – if property owners decide to try it.
New regulations approved Oct. 7 by the R.I. Coastal Resource Management Council would allow a dozen eligible commercial and residential property owners on Matunuck Beach Road in South Kingstown and another 38 property owners on Atlantic Avenue in Westerly’s Misquamicut neighborhood to use experimental measures to prevent beach erosion.
The rules do not recommend, endorse, limit or otherwise specify what new technologies or approaches might be used. As a result, property owners are left to do the research, collaborate with their neighbors and apply first for predetermination to see if their plans are feasible, and then for approval to go forward.
The regulations are intended to permit temporary measures for up to three years, though successful initiatives could be renewed.
By late January, the Misquamicut Business Association was just beginning to study the new rules and explore potential options for its members.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Caswell Cooke Jr., the association’s executive director. “If we can take advantage of experimental measures, we should pursue them. I’m going to find out what’s allowed and study [the new rules] and discuss it with our board. What we can do is just help get the information out to our people.”
Michelle Colucci Pinto, co-owner of the Andrea Hotel, which was destroyed by the remnants of Superstorm Sandy and has been reconstituted in a temporary structure, is interested in learning more, but unsure how feasible it would be unless neighbors joined forces. Her property at 89 Atlantic Ave. is eligible for experimental measures.
“If one piece of property tries something, it’s not going to really help us unless the whole oceanfront is cooperating,” Pinto said. “I’m interested as a stakeholder, but it definitely would need to be a collaborative effort.”
So far, Jim Boyd, the policy analyst who wrote the new rules at the request of CRMC Executive Director Grover Fugate, has had no applications for experimental measures.