Replacement of the distinctive tile roof that has long adorned the old stone Santander Bank building in Vineyard Haven is causing concern among residents and town selectmen, who on Tuesday referred the project to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission for review.

Early this week, the bank began a project to replace the red Spanish tile roof with red asphalt shingles. By mid-morning on the day work began, a town resident had raised concerns about the changes.

In an email to town administrator John (Jay) Grande, Nancy Ferguson asked if something could be done to stop the alteration.

“I was so disappointed when I walked down Main street in Vineyard Haven this morning and saw workers removing the original orange tile roof from the Old Stone Bank,” she wrote. “Although on Main street, it is my understanding it is a part of the William street historic district.”

The distinctive fieldstone building was built in 1905 on the former site of the Crocker Harness Factory. It was designed by Boston architect J. Williams Beal for William Barry Owen, who was the son of whaling captain Leander C. Owen. Nearby Owen Park was named for the younger Mr. Owen, who was a recording company pioneer and co-founder of the Gramaphone Company. The building for decades housed the Martha’s Vineyard National Bank, and is a well-known landmark on Main street Vineyard Haven.

Martha’s Vineyard National was sold some years ago and is now Santander Bank, an international bank that originated in Spain.

Tisbury building inspector Kenneth Barwick told the selectmen at their meeting Tuesday that plans for the roof repair and replacement went through all the proper channels for permits and licenses around mid July.

“At the time of the application, the concern of the bank was more of the damage that was being done to the interior of the building by the roof leaking, badly,” Mr. Barwick said. The plan calls for using red composite shingles as new roofing.

Town administrator John (Jay) Grande said he was not aware of any historic easements on the building. But the work may fall under the checklist for review to the commission as a development of regional impact (DRI). According to the checklist, projects that demolish or make exterior alterations to historic structures more than 100 years old, with some exclusions, must be sent to the commission for possible review.

Selectmen Tristan Israel said the bank should have been aware of the significance of the building to the town.

“That’s too bad Santander Bank didn’t have more sensitivity about the community,” he said.

Selectman Larry Gomez agreed, saying he expected more complaints and inquiries from residents.

“You know what they’re going to say: Why did the town let them do this?” he said.

Board chairman Melinda Loberg expressed concern that referring the project to the commission would stop the repair work and the building would be susceptible to damage, especially with inclement weather in the forecast.

“I don’t want to put us in jeopardy for having in any way stopped them from protecting the building,” Mrs. Loberg said.

Mr. Israel stressed that they were not asking the bank to halt repairs, only to refer the project while the permit is still open.

“We have no ability to stop them right now even if we wanted to and . . . . that’s not our intention right now,” Mr. Israel said.

The board voted 2-0 to refer the project to the commission. Mrs. Loberg abstained.

Selectmen also voted to have Mr. Barwick inform the bank of the concern and ask them to consider replacing the roof with tiles instead of the asphalt shingles.

“It really enables Ken to convey to the bank our dismay as a town with the changes that they are doing to this building, which the town believes is a historic, iconic building,” said Mrs. Loberg. “It’s a request, not an insist or require.”