Chilmark residents and town officials made it clear they stand ready to safeguard their picturesque Menemsha village this week, as a U.S. Coast Guard design team presented preliminary plans to rebuild the historic boathouse that burned in the July 2010 fire.

Town leaders were adamant that the historic character of the town be maintained in the new structure.

“This building has been such a commanding building in our harbor . . . because it sets the stage in our harbor so much . . . we’re really sensitive,” said Chilmark selectman Frank Fenner at the public meeting Tuesday. “I think in Chilmark we appreciate the Coast Guard being in Menemsha and we understand it’s not just Chilmark harbor, that we’re sharing it with the Coast Guard. But we also want to make sure that you don’t think it’s the Coast Guard harbor and we’re lucky to be using it, we care about the appearance of our place and we work hard for that.”

Coast Guard officials said the building must serve the station needs in Menemsha for the next 50 years.

“The Coast Guard has three primary roles — maritime safety, maritime security and maritime stewardship, so the Coast Guard is here for our protection and in order to do that here in Menemsha they need a facility for boat maintenance,” said architect Daniel Bass from the Boston firm Baker/Wohl. The firm is also designing the Dukes County sheriff’s new headquarters at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

Coast Guard project director Francis Brito from the Seattle office said architects have tried their best to mimic the original structure.

“The building needs to meet the mission of today and the future,” he said. “And I can understand that you’re a very appreciative, demanding and proud community.”

The 68-year-old, red-roofed building was destroyed in the fire; the rubble has since been cleared away and a new pier built. The Coast Guard has requested $10 million for the building project in the federal budget but it has yet to be approved by President Obama. The earliest a new boathouse could be completed is 2013.

As presently drawn, the new structure has three stories including an attic, and is higher than the old building — 34 feet compared with 28 feet. The dimensions of the building would also increase to 78 by 46, for a total of 3,588 square feet. The original building was about 3,000 square feet.

Preliminary designs call for the first floor to include a long bay for boat maintenance and support, a loading dock and a shop room for parts and tool storage. The second floor would house offices, storage for personnel, a gear room and locker rooms for men and women.

The attic would house mechanical equipment including air handler units and compressors. Dormer windows would be used for ventilation with some dormers acting as louvers instead of windows.

The building would be almost entirely built with reinforced concrete, much more fire resistant Mr. Bass said, but with white-painted shingle walls and a red roof. One challenge the design team and engineers face is the 100-year flood plain, now marked three and a half feet above where the original floor level began.

Selectman Warren Doty had concerns about the overall size and said it did not comply with the Chilmark zoning bylaws, exceeding height limits. “We consider the height of buildings extremely important — we have arguments about it all the time,” Mr. Doty said. “We’re a town that has said the height of our buildings is very important to us. Under no circumstance would a 34-foot building be allowed inside our current bylaws. If you were not the Coast Guard you would never get a permit for a 34-foot tall building that’s near the harbor.”

Chilmark resident Chris Murphy suggested the building was in the wrong place and perhaps belonged up the hill next to the Coast Guard station.

“[The original boathouse] somehow gave the harbor some good feeling but I look at this now and it doesn’t belong now,” Mr. Murphy said. “If you think about it logically, it doesn’t make sense to put the building where it’s going to flood. This building belongs next to the station, not on the water.”

Some took issue with the planned use of the attic space, but Everett Poole had a different opinion. Mr. Poole said the mechanical equipment is better kept inside than out.

“The maintenance of equipment will be much better upstairs and I don’t think louvers are going to be half as offensive as people think,” he said, adding: “I think it’s too damn high and you undoubtedly need to shorten the building a little bit.”

Mr. Brito said the Coast Guard would give the towns comments serious consideration. The design team will return in two to four weeks with an updated plan.

“I know it’s impossible to please everybody,” Mr. Brito said. “We’re trying our best to do what we can and be as consistent with the Coast Guard mission as possible. I think frankly trying to come back to the original dimensions is going to be close to an act of God, but we’ll get to as close to God’s wishes as we can.”