The four Oak Bluffs select board candidates fielded questions from residents Wednesday at a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters. The event, held at Oak Bluffs Public Library, gave candidates running for any position on the ballot a chance to speak to voters ahead of next week’s election.

Kris Chvatal, Bill Cleary, Emma Green-Beach, and K. Mark Leonard were all queried about issues on the warrant for annual town meeting on Tuesday. 

The proposed light industrial and mixed-use overlay district, a controversial warrant article that could lead to some light industrial development and multifamily housing in various parts of town, came up at the forum. 

“There’s no way you’re going to put me in a position to defend the planning board, because I don’t set the policies,” said Mr. Chvatal, who had previously served a term on the board about 10 years ago. “I kind of expected a little bit more on the planning board side, more discussion, after the committee finished its work.”

Mr. Leonard said that while he has some concerns, the potential for multifamily dwellings in the proposed overlay district could be good for the town.

Mr. Cleary said that it will be interesting to see how residents vote on the issue and acknowledged that abutters are concerned about the overlay district. He also voiced concerns that the public did not have enough involvement in the development process.

“The hard thing about the public process is we literally always need more,” Ms. Green-Beach said, countering the concerns about public involvement. She explained that whether or not there was enough communication with the public in regards to this project, there will always be more questions and comments from residents.

“There are people who need to run businesses here and the services and goods they provide, we need,” she added. “I think that we do need these tools to be able to allow them to do work.”

The select board candidates were also asked for their opinion on the $4.7 million proposal to replace the harbor jetties.

“I’m not an engineer and I’m not a boat person,” Mr. Cleary admitted, “But I do know that the harbor is one of our biggest moneymakers. It is probably one of the most important assets for our people.”

He went on to say that his main concern about the jetty proposal is the price tag. The cost estimate was first proposed over two years ago, and despite requests from the town administrator for the engineering company to redo their estimate, the price has remained the same.

Mr. Chvatal said that he is in favor of rehabilitating the harbor jetties. He views it almost on the level of an emergency operation because the disrepair is so severe.

Mr. Leonard also supports the proposal.

“As a member of the capital program committee, I advocated for the jetties to be fixed,” he said. “When you look at those jetties today, they’re covered. It doesn’t even have to get to hightide and they’re covered, which means they’re doing nothing...They need work.”

Ms. Green-Beach agreed that the jetties need to be repaired. She voiced concerns that this rehabilitation effort would not be enough to increase the harbor’s resiliency long term, but stressed that because it is a warrant article, it is up for the residents of Oak Bluffs to decide on as a whole.

The first resident to speak asked how candidates plan to ensure that town bylaws are enforced. Ms. Green-Beach, who is currently the board’s chair, agreed that enforcement is an issue in Oak Bluffs, stating that it is hard to balance the need for more staff with budget concerns. 

Mr. Chvatal proposed that Oak Bluffs and Tisbury could share an enforcement officer, whose sole job would be to respond to complaints and potential violations. Mr. Leonard pointed to another article on the warrant, that would fund a short-term rental database and inspection program done between Oak Bluffs and Tisbury, as an example of potential collaboration.

While Mr. Cleary did not have an immediate solution, he stressed that collaborating with different department heads would be key to solving the lack of enforcement in town.

Only a handful of candidates for other roles spoke at the forum Wednesday. 

Antone Lima, who is an unopposed incumbent, stood to answer questions about the parks commissioner position. William Davies, who is running as a write-in candidate for the one-year planning board position, introduced himself to the audience. 

Both candidates running for tree warden spoke to the audience. Richard Combra, Jr. is running for re-election. He also serves as the highway superintendent. His opponent, Jonathon Hunt, is currently serving on West Tisbury’s tree advisory committee.

Maura McGroarty and James Klingensmith, two of the three candidates for the three open positions on the finance and advisory committee, also stood to speak. Ms. McGroarty is running for re-election and Mr. Klingensmith has served on the finance and advisory committee before.

The League of Women Voters’ forum is available to watch on Martha’s Vineyard Community Television until the election.