What follows are an edited selection of e-mails sent to the Chilmark planning board from town property owners in advance of the board’s meeting this week to discuss the issue of extra large houses.

I am a registered voter in the town of Chilmark and have lived here in various lengths of time since 1974. Change is inevitable and we have been in the enviable position to see change come slowly. I would always say that coming to Chilmark was like stepping back in time to a slower more friendly way of life. When we started coming to Chilmark, no one dressed up, there were no road names, no library cards, even in the summer you were on a nodding relationship with most everyone. Things change.

There have been some big houses built in Chilmark (and not invisible down dirt roads) for quite some time. I applaud the boards of Chilmark for taking the time to face this problem now. New rules and regulations need to be implemented if we want to preserve the rural character of our town.

One suggestion would be to have a maximum size above which the plans would have to be reviewed by an appropriate board such as they have in Aquinnah. Then there could be some give-and-take on the part of the builder and town to work out something appropriate.

I hope this is a discussion that can be worked on in the coming year. I would be happy to participate in such a discussion and committee if one is being formed.

Candy Shweder

Jill and I are abutters to the Zoia property. We do not want to vilify the Zoias. Our aim here is to encourage the various town boards to institute regulations which control development more strictly than it has been able to do under the existing regulations. All the residents of Chilmark who serve on town boards should be complimented for their time and contributions, especially insofar as often their hands are tied to prevent things happening that they would rather not happen. For the most part, the Zoias built what was allowed. That is up to us to now address and correct if we wish to maintain the character of the town that we all love.

Jill and I raised our children in Pound Ridge, N.Y., a very beautiful wooded rural town 55 miles north of New York city, which has been under assault for years by various development proposals. One of the regulations which helps to avoid overbuilt development is a “coverage” regulation; every building, tennis court, pool, patio, garage, etc are counted in the coverage. I don’t know how that works so that it fairly treats large and small properties, but somehow it works and is something, I believe, the board should investigate. Along those lines, I would encourage the board to hire professionals who could advise us on the best ways to accomplish what we wish to accomplish that would withstand legal opposition.

I also believe we should establish areas of impact which are treated more delicately than other areas. We would not want to treat a large project in the woods, unseen by anyone, the same as a home in close proximity to other homes and on ponds, ocean or other highly visible scenic areas which “belong” to all of us, as it is why we are here.

Jill and I have, over the past 25 years, added to our home several times. Each time, we tried to be sensitive to how boaters entering Quitsa viewed our home which is the first thing one would see and also how our neighbors viewed it. Although we are aware that no one, including us, is necessarily able to please everyone else when it comes to taste, we tried to consider others’ perspectives.

There were certain aspects of the Zoia property development which I think surprised the boards. Again, it is not my intention to castigate the Zoias or criticize the boards. I think all of them might have been just as surprised as we were at what happened with the “wall.” What was on the plans approved by the conservation commission was a wall supposedly to mark out the borders of the lawn. The average person would then assume a four-foot-high stone wall similar to one of the storied features of our town. It turned out to resemble, to me, a concrete bunker worthy of the Nazi defense of the Normandy beaches in World War II, seven feet high, wide and of thick concrete. It also included a bunker for a generator and air conditioning units just off of our property line. I believe that our town building inspector is now reviewing whether that wall, as built, is in violation of our rules. My point is that if the boards had better drawings of exactly what was to be built, rather than innocuous descriptions, they could have reacted sooner. The old phrase “the devil is in the details” is very applicable here. So I am proposing that some more exactitude be required in the future and to not leave anything to chance that an architect might characterize one way to pass review, but in reality would be totally objectionable.

Another issue here was the major altering of the original grade. Tons of topsoil were removed during the construction process and, perhaps as a consequence of, all of a sudden we and other abutters had large amounts of iron in our wells. We can’t prove where it came from, but many yards deep of filtering soil was removed for a long period of time. Then the grade was built up as a retaining wall to level off the property and try to bury part of the bunker and wall to make it legal. But the original contours of the land were destroyed and this should be more closely controlled in the future.

Some additional thoughts: The U.S. has taxes or requirements on the composition of U.S. products in automobiles. Many of the new trophy houses are employing workers from off-Island and exotic materials from abroad. I am not knowledgeable as to whether an incentive to, or a penalty for use of non-Vineyard labor or materials not purchased here can be employed. It’s a tariff of sorts, or alternatively an incentive, but it could serve to benefit local workers and businesses. That is something which should be encouraged.

Ken Iscol

My family has owned in Chilmark since 2005, but we have rented on the Island since 1980. We rented for two decades in West Tisbury, then fell in love with the ponds of Chilmark and we moved up-Island, first as renters and now as owners. It is the natural resources that drew us to Chilmark and it is those that now seem threatened, both by natural and man made challenges to the environment. As the ocean eats away at our beaches, the mega-houses pollute the shores of our beautiful ponds. These are Chilmark’s jewels and without them the place loses its splendid unique appeal. So my inquiry is two tiered and follows below.

First, I am curious about how something like the Zoia house happened when in my experience with the Chilmark zoning board and conservation commission (we are located near wetlands), we have to adhere to the strictest policies and carefully observe regulations. Is the house out of the wetlands district? If so or if wetlands zoning doesn’t help in reducing imprint, perhaps there could be some kind of zoning regulation about how much of the natural view a house is allowed to block? Then, Zoia and others could build below ground if they absolutely need their 10,000 to 20,000-square-foot houses without polluting the pond landscape. It’s difficult in this country to block categorically someone’s right to build the amount of house they want, but, perhaps if it’s not the square footage that is blocked but the visibility of that square footage, the regulation may stand the test of lawsuits or claims of unconstitutionality. It does seem with the epidemic of megahouses that have sprouted up around the ponds in the last five to 10 years, that we do need to try to put a dike in the dam of overbuilding and your efforts in this direction would be very appreciated.

Kay Matschullat

If there is a way to speak for nature somehow, to try to regulate the size of houses as a percentage of the land covered, I feel the resources — water, light, air, and wildlife would be best served in the long term, valuing them as highly as the desire to provide jobs. Promoting a culture not of material wealth as a marker of status but of concern for neighbors, comity and mutuality being the real values of our town.

Permitting oversized houses to be built not only strains relationships and the resources but risks the character that makes people want to visit or reside here in the first place.

I know that some, once they have their status mansions, after enjoying all that Chilmark has to offer, finally “get it” and are embarrassed that they missed the chance to live lightly on this beautiful land.

Thank you for your stewardship, time and vigilance in these matters. I want to express how grateful I am that you deal with arrogant architects who want the big commission or the bragging rights, the peeved, outraged and entitled, the baffled and the passionate, to insure it’s a place where we can enjoy what is so precious and fragile to us all.

Margaret Whitton

I have watched from afar as the controversy has developed over Adam Zoia’s buildings. I felt it might appear cynical for me to weigh in, but I can no longer stay silent.

My father and mother, Gil and Nancy Harrison, bought this property in 1960, and I spent a portion of every sumer of my life there. I am old enough to remember the Lamborns, who preceeded the Charrens, and old Donald Poole with his brass earrings, and his wife Dorothy, quietly keeping to themselves down the driveway.

I cannot tell you how horrified I am at what has become of the old Harrison property. Perhaps I was wearing rose-tinted glasses at the planning board meeting I attended, and in the various correspondences I witnessed, as Zoia sought the permits he needed, but neither I nor my family had cause to believe this architectural atrocity would be allowed. Years ago my father spoke to the Chilmark authorities about building a guest house or adding to the square footage of our now-demolished structure. Simply put, we were led to believe that very little was possible due to stiff regulations, and we never proceeded.

It was with this frame of mind that I watched the Zoia hearings unfold. I believed that the zoning restrictions in Chilmark were so onerous that Zoia could do very little to our property except add a bit of square footage in a more modern house. I assumed he might add a small garage and guest quarters, no more than 800 square feet or so. Chilmark was famous for its tight-fisted control, or so I thought. I believed that the property was safe from the type of mind-numbing, soulless, destructive exploitation that has occurred.

How innocent my view! Or perhaps I was willfully ignorant.

No one can deny that my family gained financially from this sale. I would also say that with four family members it is unclear whether all of us ever could have agreed on limiting what Zoia could do, previous to the sale. Our property had been on the market for four years, and there were those of us who cared more than others what any prospective buyer might do.

I can only speak for myself and say that the building that has occurred goes beyond what I could possibly have envisioned. A sacred, beautiful part of a beloved community has been soiled by a profiteer with too much money and too little taste. We can, in fact, legislate taste. For example, in Santa Fe one must build adobe houses in the style of the surrounding environment.

I would like to know how this could happen. It simply doesn’t seem possible. It should never happen again, and even though I no longer have a stake in the matter, I will do whatever I can to ensure it doesn’t.

With all my heart I apologize to our old neighbors for whom this is a burden. I especially feel for the Pooles, whose unique stewardship of this land goes back 200 years. How awful it was to sit across the room as Everett Poole protested these proceedings. It’s true I fought for Zoia, and against Everett. But the distance between what I believed would be built, and what was built, is a great one. It pains me to know that in part he was right and I was wrong. As I imagine him witnessing these proceedings from his perch on Bumblebee Hill it makes me tremble with anger. Over 50 years we watched the Lamborns and Charrens leave and the Iscols and Vila/ Barrets rebuild properties; this was difficult to witness, however, in both cases there was a sense of scale, of architectural symmetry to the surroundings. What gave way this time? Who allowed this to happen?

Something powerful has been destroyed — my father’s legacy, one in which understatement, simplicity and gentle beauty has been replaced by what appears to be an airport hangar, a wall akin to what is going up on the Mexican border, and an indoor spa fit for Sun Valley. Dad didn’t need two kitchens, he didn’t need an eight-car garage, he didn’t need an indoor pool. He had a sense of community, he cared for his neighbors. He cared about the blue cedars by the run-down tennis court, the 40-year-old rose bushes by the driveway, a swim off a rickety dock. He refused to build a new kitchen — the old one, and it was old, was fine. We cannot go back to the old, none of us are Luddites, but we must work harder, whether by protest or legislation to guide the new.

Old Donald Poole rarely spoke to my parents. He was courteous but kept his distance, as the old-timers often do. One day he walked up the hill as my dad was mowing the lawn, stood for a minute, then thrust out his hand, and blurted out. “I just wanted to say, you been a good neighbor.” And with that he walked away. This is a benediction Adam Zoia will never receive.

Why? We know why. Because my dad respected his community, which Zoia does not.

There is an ache inside me that will never go away — it is as if a beloved friend has been targeted by a bomb.

I stand in solidarity with those who object to everything Adam Zoia has built.

Joel Harrison

I too have been a longtime summer resident of Menemsha, 67 years and counting. There was a period during the 1960s when I remember thinking, along with many others, that the Vineyard of old was disappearing. It was going to become a Massachusetts version of the Hamptons. Fortunately that did not happen. But here we are, over 40 years later, watching two enormous Hampton-like houses being built.

Something has to be done to prohibit future atrocities being built.

Bobbie Leventhal Crosby

We believe steps must be taken. In order to preserve Chilmark’s rural character, the town needs a more rigorous architectural review process and updated bylaws that address the issues pertaining to the size and aesthetics of new homes. We’ve been Vineyard summer renters since 1970 and homeowners since 1989. In that time we’ve seen dramatic changes in the types of houses many new owners build. Some of these are enormous eyesores. They are compromising the water quality of the ponds, the environment and the unique character of the Island. We sometimes question whether the Vineyard has lost what we came for and is no longer where we want to be.

Please do something to protect our community.

Lois and Mel Tukman