The West Tisbury historic district commission has joined the town selectmen and many others in raising concerns about plans by the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival to relocate to a residential area in the town’s historic district.

On Monday, the six commissioners unanimously approved a letter to the festival board highlighting the purpose of the historic district and asking for an informal meeting to discuss the issue further. The letter stopped short of denouncing the plans, but relayed a clear sense of concern in light of the area’s historic character, and fierce public opposition to the plans in recent weeks.

“The objective of the West Tisbury historic district is to provide protection against inappropriate change in one of the Island’s most significant historic areas,” the letter states in part. “In the historic district you would be joining, owners understand that the public benefit is held superior to a reasonable degree of private sacrifice.” The letter included a copy of the historic district guidelines.

The festival’s plan to purchase 12.5 acres formerly owned by the late Cynthia Walsh on Old County Road triggered a wave of public opposition beginning in May, and more than 250 comments on the Gazette website, nearly all of them opposed to the purchase. Festival leaders plan to host a series of public forums in the fall to help determine the future uses of the property.

In their own letter last week, the town selectmen noted the festival’s accomplishments and importance to the community, but also took sharp aim at the proposal, as revealed so far in minutes of the West Tisbury planning board, news articles and film festival materials. Among other things, they called the scale of the plans “beyond all reasonable limits and capacities that could co-exist in the long established peaceable rural neighborhood that surrounds the Walsh parcels.”

Much of the discussion on Monday focused on how to send a clear message without rejecting the plans outright, since the festival has yet to submit an application. Commissioner Charlie Kernick had drafted a much more sharply worded letter, but others agreed that it would be jumping the gun.

“We are supposed to work with owners,” said commission secretary Nancy Dole, who had drafted an alternative letter that the commission later approved with a few changes. “It’s not normal for us to jump ahead in that way.”

Commissioner Lanny McDowell also favored a more tempered approach, as a way to open the door to informal discussions, during which the commission could air its concerns. “I would rather say, ‘This is our job, this is how we go about it, and there are certain requirements that you are going to have to meet,’ and see what happens,” he said.

Ms. Dole said she believed the land on Old County Road would have a similar purpose as the Chilmark Community Center, which has served as the festival’s home base for many years. But she believed the potential noise, traffic and crowds would be a jolt to the neighborhood, where many people have already spoken out against the plans.

Some commissioners worried that the festival may not fully understand how the historic district works until they have a chance to meet with the commission. Sean Conley pointed out that 66 per cent of town voters supported a major expansion of the district in 2000. “It wasn’t by accident,” he said. “The town wanted that to happen. They need to understand that, too.”

Commissioner Ben Moore argued that another location in town might be more appropriate, and pointed to the value of films in the community. Others agreed that the festival deserved a home, but that the Walsh property was not appropriate.

Mr. Conley argued for stronger language in the letter, in part because the festival board reportedly planned to meet on Wednesday to discuss its proposal. “If they know that we have serious reservations and concerns about the activity in the historic district here, it might make them think twice on Wednesday,” he said. But others favored a gentler approach.

“They’ll get the message,” said Ms. Dole.