A proposed zoning bylaw that would prohibit dilapidated buildings in downtown Oak Bluffs has earned the disapproval of the town planning board.

During a public hearing late this week, members of the board agreed that the town should not regulate the aesthetics of commercial structures.

“I would like to look at why we are not enforcing the capabilities that we already have and focusing there versus creating new statutes,” said planning board member Ewell Hopkins.

The bylaw was first drafted in fall of 2013, following a summer of several vacancies on Circuit avenue, the main commercial street in town.

At that time, selectman Walter Vail suggested that the town adopt a bylaw requiring landlords to keep their buildings up to par.

In particular, Mr. Vail said he wanted to do something about the two vacant movie theatres that had become eyesores; one had lost letters on its sign and the other had lost a roof.

The resulting document outlined property maintenance requirements for buildings in the commercial districts B-1 and B-2. The bylaw, which proposed a registry of vacant buildings to track the maintenance of commercial buildings, would be enforced by the town building inspector.

But building inspector Mark Barbadoro said at the hearing that he had doubts about the practicality of the bylaw, which he said lacked specificity.

“The way I read it, it’s not very specific and I am afraid it’s going to turn into something where feuding businesses or feuding neighbors will just use it as a weapon,” he said. “It will take a lot of my time to address something that isn’t specific. To what level of decay is acceptable, to what level of weathering?”

Brian Packish, a planning board member who had recused himself and joined the audience because he owns a property included in the bylaw’s jurisdiction, said there was nothing in the bylaw that wasn’t already on the books, according to a conversation he had with the health agent.

Lead is present in the paint of all older buildings, he said, and when it chips it can be a health hazard, enforceable by building and health codes. Standing water is also a health hazard, he said.

Mr. Barbadoro, the building inspector, said in extreme cases, the building inspector, board of health and selectmen have the power to order a building razed.

Edgartown resident Benjamin Hall Jr., who spoke on behalf of the ownership of the Strand and Island movie theatres, had many objections to the draft bylaw. He said it was written to force him to tear down the theatres.

“The nature of [this bylaw] is really directed at trying to get those theatres in better shape,” he said.

Though he acknowledged widespread frustration with the appearance of the buildings, he said a combination of external factors had slowed the process of restoring them.

“We kind of got caught up in a whirlwind of political fervor that I don’t think is in the best interest of anybody,” he said.

He described a series of obstacles that have prevented the renovation of the historic Island Theatre, which was built circa 1915.

Last summer the building inspector ordered that all work on the building stop, deeming the building unsafe for workers.

“All we could do is sit around and watch the water pouring in the building,” Mr. Hall said.

Two weeks ago, he said, the cease and desist order was reversed after an appeal to the state.

“To this day I don’t think anybody wants it torn down,” he said. “They want it fixed and refashioned.”

He said he is applying for the correct permits for work to commence on the roof and walls.

Several potential tenants have come forward who “seem to be very eager to do something with that building, whether as a performing arts center, a movie theatre or some other purpose that has not yet been determined,” Mr. Hall said.

He also indicated that the bylaw would have no teeth if applied to his buildings.

“This is a zoning bylaw therefore you can’t enforce it against preexisting nonconforming conditions,” he said.

Ultimately, public opinion at the meeting favored ongoing efforts to revitalize the town through improvements to public infrastructure instead of a regulatory approach. The town is engaged in a broad effort to study the downtown area and identify ways to encourage further business development.

Mr. Packish said he had already seen the fruits of a renewed sense of civic pride in town, noting that three-quarters of buildings downtown had been repainted.

“We have a resurgence in our town that I’ll venture to say is unprecedented,” he said.