Oak Bluffs select board candidates make their pitch


Oak Bluffs residents will go to the polls on Thursday, April 11, for the town’s annual local election. On the ballot will be four candidates for select board — including one incumbent — vying for two seats on the board.

The Times issued the four candidates a number of questions about climate resilience, housing, and how to keep local taxes from overwhelming residents with a number of hefty capital projects on the horizon.

Here are the questions we asked:

  1. Tell the voters a little about yourself and why you are running.
  2. The town recently announced a nitrogen mitigation plan that is expected to cost over $100 million to finance. Meantime, the high school is looking at a major capital project. Both have the potential to hit taxpayers’ pockets significantly. Is that a concern for you and if so, what plans would you propose to help?
  3. The town’s planning board is proposing a number of overlay districts at town meeting that would give some businesses a pathway to expanding. Currently, almost all of Oak Bluffs is zoned residential. Do you support the planning board’s initiative? 
  4. Do you see Oak Bluffs and the Island in a housing crisis, and what are some ways the town could bring relief if you believe so?
  5. Oak Bluffs is a coastal community that is seeing the impacts of climate change. How would you make the town more resilient?


Emma Green-Beach

  1. I am the executive director and shellfish biologist for the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, a nonprofit formed in 1976 to assure the continuation of shellfish resources for the Island community. I am seeking re-election to the Oak Bluffs select board, which I have served on for one, three-year term, so far. I have been the chair of the select board since last spring, which has been extremely enlightening and rewarding. I was born and raised in Oak Bluffs, and I decided to run for the select board three years ago very simply because I wanted to serve. I have no specific motive except to help lead O.B. with collaboration, respect and inclusion, and with an environment focus.
  2. I am very concerned about potential tax increases in the near future, as is everyone else. However, improvements to our wastewater infrastructure and regional high school are essential. I hope that we can find ways to improve town services while increasing efficiencies by partnering with one or more island towns in some departments or contract providers. I hope that we can be unafraid of the word regional, and try to reduce redundancies across the island. 
  3. I support the proposed zoning overlay districts, which will allow the town to properly manage special permitting of some businesses which currently have no space to operate legally in Oak Bluffs. We have friends and neighbors in OB who want to run businesses to support the families and provide goods and services to the Island. I am an environmentalist, and I think development is occurring at an alarming rate, but I do not think that ‘light industrial’ operations are going to cause nearly the environmental degradation and commercialization as short term rentals (STRs) are, for example. I’d rather provide a path for islanders to operate their legitimate businesses and not vilify them. 
  4. The Vineyard is definitely in a housing crisis yet we cannot build our way out of it. We should thoughtfully build dense housing where density is appropriate, so that we can disturb less land for more attainable housing units. I would like to see O.B. encourage year-round rentals, using new legislation. I think we need to strictly limit short term rentals as a primary use of a property, or only allow them in certain districts. I do not want to stop residents from engaging in the short-term rental market as an accessory use to their property, as Islanders have done for decades. I am generally in support of the Housing Bank and a transfer fee to assist qualified Islanders obtain stable housing. 
  5. As a coastal community, the concept of resilience to climate change can mean a lot of things. One thing I am sure of, we will not hold our own against sea level rise, changing weather patterns, habitat degradation and ferry cancellations if we are not united as an Island community. We need to educate ourselves and each other on the far reaching impacts of climate change so we can prepare (energy back-up storage, emergency shelters, food banks, managed retreat, etc.) together. And in the meantime, each and every one of us can learn how to reduce our carbon footprint, energy consumption, potable water use, and dependency on fossil fuels, including non-essential plastics. Nearly everyone can learn to grow a garden.


  1. Mark Leonard
  1. I became an Oak Bluffs resident after I retired from the Army as a Colonel 14 years ago. My wife Lisa and I owned and operated a business consulting firm before retiring in 2018. We have three children and five grandchildren. I am running for Select Board to serve my community. Over the years, I have volunteered on multiple Oak Bluffs committees and have been encouraged by other board and committee members to run for select board. I am concerned about the town’s large infrastructure projects coming in the next 5 to 10 years and how we will pay for them. 
  2. Wastewater and the new high school are only two major infrastructure projects we have coming. The Oak Bluffs budget has increased by $4.4M in the last two years. At an 11 percent budget growth, we cannot sustain that level of funding without budget overrides and debt exclusions and fund future infrastructure projects. As a Select Board member, I will work to set town goals and priorities, look where we can accept risk to control budget growth, and determine strategies to fund these larger infrastructure projects. We must increase our ability to compete for state and federal grants to support all projects. 
  3. There is a need to grow business districts in Oak Bluffs. Already, businesses are operating in unregulated areas, and the proposed articles help regulate them through permitting. Using overlay districts is one of the few ways to increase business zoning without eliminating residential zoning. I prefer that the light industrial mixed-use overlay district (LIMOD) would have required owner occupancy to prevent the pure commercialization of the property in residential neighborhoods. I would also like to see multifamily housing as a stand-alone bylaw and not tied to LIMOD with year-round residency restrictions, not tied to income, to support workforce housing. 
  4. Housing has been my primary work for Oak Bluffs. In my tenure as chair of the town’s affordable housing committee, we have 76 apartments and homes in development for Oak Bluffs residents. The 76 homes fulfill the Oak Bluffs Housing Production Plan goals, so the committee has been expanding housing activities to increase the income limits to better support teachers, police officers, and residents up to 150 percent of annual median income. The committee has sponsored four warrant articles to preserve year-round housing, encourage private housing development, and increase the Oak Bluffs Municipal Housing Trust income level to support more attainable housing solutions. 
  5. As a member of the town’s capital program committee, I advocated for repairing our failed harbor jetty in 2025, which is fully permitted, when others were willing to push repairs out an additional 3 to 5 years. The town needs a proactive, comprehensive plan that addresses resiliency and ties all coastal lands from the Lagoon drawbridge to the Big Bridge. East Chop bluffs and Farm Pond Culvert projects are progressing, but we must do more to combat the effects of climate change. We should prioritize the harbor to reduce harbor wave surges and flooding to protect our most important commodity, the O.B. downtown area. 


Kris Chvatal

  1. I have lived in Oak Bluffs for twenty years, and with my wife Molly, a physical therapist who serves children with special needs, have raised twin girls here. I served on the zoning board of appeals — for eleven years and seven as chair — the planning board for three years — the high school advisory council for three years — and the first town hall building committee. It has been both a challenge and a pleasure to serve, and I’d like to continue to do so in a new role. 
  2. The crush has the potential to be worse, if you add reconstruction of the harbor jetties and the drilling of a new well to remedy our water pressure deficiency. We will need to pursue grant funding, of course, and ensure we pounce on low bond rates. I am in favor of increasing the residential tax exemption to 20 percent and limiting eligibility to homes under $4 or $5 million from just over a way-too-high $7 million now. I also support going back to the table on the high school funding formula, which is inequitable for Oak Bluffs.
  3. It is difficult to justify that out of the 4,700-odd acres of Oak Bluffs, we should continue to allocate only eleven acres to commercial use. But I am only a partial supporter of the light-industrial/mixed use and professional services overlay districts. Allowing commercial uses in the transfer station area is reasonable, given what has long been established there. The other two areas are more problematic, and may need to be scaled down in scope with more public input. I don’t believe the professional services district bylaw was vetted nearly enough to warrant its adoption this year, but I am willing to consider an improved version.
  4. Access to affordable housing is a long-term, economically debilitating condition present now and in every possible future. I have yet to see an affordable housing proposal that doesn’t deserve our full support, including the proposed accessory dwelling unit bylaw on this year’s warrant, which I encourage the town’s voters to support. I would also favor a zoning bylaw change that would prohibit short-term rentals as a residentially-zoned property’s principal use, which depletes the market of long-term rental units by permitting what are more or less hotels. 
  5. I was the co-author of the town’s wind power bylaws and author of the town’s solar power bylaws, both of which were designed to ease public adoption and address climate change. We’ve made progress on several fronts in the last decade, including in the North Bluff area. Still, repair and reconstruction of the seawall, particularly as it winds down to the Farm Pond culvert, is a necessity. I’d also like to see the town invest in its own dredge, rather than lease Edgartown’s, for both maintenance and emergency replenishment of sand. Aggressively chasing down state and federal support will be critical.


William Cleary

  1. I am a 36-year Island resident and self-employed professional, and I have been an active participant in all the volunteer efforts that I have conducted for the town. We have many significant challenges in front of us. After careful consideration, I have decided to use the knowledge and experience I have gained to try to work respectfully and collaboratively to address the evolving needs of the town. The select board is the primary decision-making board for the town, so why not try to be an active participant with that group.
  2. The premise of the comprehensive wastewater management plan is to protect our ponds and oceans. I am in complete support of any project or initiative which will protect our most valuable resources. How the plan will be implemented as well as the costs associated will need to be discussed and analyzed further. A most important aspect to any project, especially one of this scope is extensive public outreach. The cost will be significant which is why the plan must be clearly defined, benefitting as much of our population as possible while protecting our ponds and ocean. The new high school is an Island wide initiative with its own unique challenges. Raising taxes is always a concern, more concerning to me is not protecting our infrastructure and not protecting our fragile ecosystem. It has been proven that not acting will only cost us more money in the future. All major projects will need to be funded through a combination of grants, taxes, and sound financing strategies. It is critical that we become proactive in finding other avenues to generate revenue and funding besides taxes. 
  3. What may be getting lost in all the discussion is that the reason behind the zoning changes is to protect the town by allowing the planning board more control over how individuals/businesses are using their properties. With the building boom over the last eight years, the dynamics of the building trades industry has changed dramatically. Designating an area with proper setbacks, noise control solutions and hours of operation where the trades can legally house their equipment will protect our residential districts. It is apparent that some abutters may not understand or may not believe that their concerns are being addressed; this appears to be a communication problem not a zoning problem. This is an important opportunity for the planning board and the abutters to come to an understanding. It is my impression that these sites being debated may be a desirable location for a 40B project which would be controlled by the state not the local regulators nor the abutters. I support the zoning overlay districts because I believe the planning board and the abutters can outline a plan which will satisfy all parties’ concerns.
  4. The island has been talking about housing concerns since before I moved here 36 years ago. The current housing situation is beyond the crisis stage. There are many initiatives being discussed with some beyond the discussion stage. Some housing projects are moving forward. Some towns have changed or are looking at zoning changes to support the need. For us as an Island to truly address the needs as well as protect our future we must come to an understanding across the Island on density concerns as well as the not in my backyard fears. We do need affordable housing, but more importantly we need obtainable housing stock. This may be more than the public sector can accomplish on their own.
  5. I served on the steering committee for the climate action plan. I currently work with the Vineyard sustainable energy committee, the Eversource working group, the hospital road resilience committee and I am on the climate and energy committee for O.B. The question you asked is a complicated and expensive one. What I can tell you is that there are people much smarter than me aware of and working on these concerns. I hope to continue taking part in the discussions and future solutions.