Chilmark is considering moving forward with limits on fractional home ownership, a new home ownership model akin to timeshares that has started to appear on the Island

The planning board met Tuesday to host the first public hearing for a new bylaw that would ban fractional ownership in certain parts of town. The new regulation, which would have to pass at town meeting, was drafted to preserve the limited housing stock in Chilmark and to put restrictions on the commercialization of these residences, according to the bylaw.

Traditional timeshare properties allow owners to own blocks of time to use a property, while fractional ownership properties allow owners to own the property itself.  

Under the fractional ownership model, investment companies are able to list prospective vacation homes in sought-after areas and they invite people to purchase and share equity in the property. In some cases, this makes home offers signficantly higer than the asking price and then the property is shared among the owners on a scheduled basis, similar to timeshares.

If passed, the bylaw would prohibit fractional ownership and timeshare units in agricultural-residential zoning districts in Chilmark.   

“I think we’re doing the right thing,” planning board chair Rich Osnoss said at the meeting.  “We believe it and we support it.”  

The planning board, with assistance from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, started the bylaw process in early 2023, after Lifestyle Asset Group bought an Aquinnah home under fractional ownership. Edgartown and Tisbury have already created zoning regulations on fractional ownership, and the Chilmark bylaw uses similar language.

The zoning changes passed in Tisbury in 2023 and passed in Edgartown last month. 

Chilmark currently has one timeshare property, created before the present-day amended zoning by-law was adopted, according to assistant assessor Pam Bunker. 

The planning board will hold a second public hearing July 8 before this bylaw proposal is brought back to the select board for a possible special town meeting in the fall.