Council members will discuss the proposed law during a Sept. 8 work session and could vote that day whether to adopt the law through an emergency ordinance rather than through the regular process, which requires two votes, officials said.
Before the meeting, the executive vice president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce handed elected officials a letter stating concerns about the proposal.
After the public discussion, Executive Vice President Fred Teeter said the city could regulate billboards for aesthetic, positioning or content reasons, but it was "ridiculous" to say the proposal was made for "public health."
In his letter, Teeter challenged city officials to provide evidence the billboards posed public safety concerns.
In researching the proposal in regard to existing billboards, City Attorney Mark Boyer said the city might have to compensate billboard owners for meeting the requirements or give them five years to change their signs.
McClure said the only way he would include existing billboards is if the city paid for the changes, which the city cannot afford.
Douglas Wright Jr., owner of GS Images, said grandfathering current billboards is reasonable. GS Images owns 44 advertising spaces on 21 different structures within the city.
Wright said if he had to change all of his signs in five years he wouldn't have a business because of the loss of advertising revenue and the cost of renovating the sign structures.
Where GS Images owns the land the billboards are on, the company could lose the land's value because it isn't big enough for anything but holding billboards, Wright said.
City officials have gotten complaints about the growing number of billboards, especially ones on South Burhans Boulevard and on East Wilson Boulevard near South Potomac Street.
Those billboards are owned by Kegerreis Outdoor Advertising in Fayetteville, Pa.
"We're in the advertising business ... We're just trying to make a living," said co-owner Ron Kegerreis in a telephone interview before the meeting.
"I'm sure whatever they'll do will be reasonable," Kegerreis said.