A coalition of Chilmark farmers is changing tack in its mission to hold agriculturally themed events after receiving pushback on a proposal to change the town’s zoning bylaws.

At a planning board meeting Monday, Beetlebung Farm owner Amy Weinberg said that the group believed farms should be allowed to hold events under the current bylaw, which permits “use of premises or structures for...agriculture; or work related directly or indirectly  thereto.”

“There’s been a whole evolution of our thinking,” she said. “We went back to the existing bylaw, which we think actually really supports all that we want to do.”

Members of the coalition have argued that agricultural events, such as farm dinners, educational programs and festivals, could boost community engagement and help make their farms more economically viable.

But the group’s proposal for bylaws to explicitly allow such events has drawn resistance among some town residents and officials, with select board member Jim Malkin saying it “threatens what makes Chilmark unique.”

In order for the farms to conduct events under the current zoning bylaw, they would require approval from the building inspector, said planning board chair Richard Osnoss.

Farm events were shut down last summer by interim inspector Billy Dillon, said Mitchell Posin of the Allen Farm. Adam Petkus has since taken over the role as full time building inspector but has yet to weigh in on applications for agricultural events, which are less common in the off-season.

Previous efforts to coordinate with the inspector, however, have not always worked out. 

“One or more of the farm operations was informed by [Billy Dillon] that, effectively, service of ready to eat meals for consumption on premises is not allowed under the Chilmark zoning bylaws,” wrote town resident Matt Poole in a letter to the board. “In effect, the farm dinners position the farms to function as restaurants or event venues.” 

Mr. Osnoss emphasized ongoing coordination with the inspector, with the potential to allow some limited events this summer as a “pilot program.”  

“We need to create a statement that the building department can look at…so we can be in agreement as to what will be permitted,” he said. 

The board plans to hold a joint meeting with the farmers and Mr. Petkus, though a date hasn’t been set.