What’s new on the plateau

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Patrick Taylor – Highlands Mayor

Normally the Highlands Town Board meeting is the third Thursday of the month which would be on the 15th this month.  The meeting has been rescheduled for Thursday, Aug. 22.

Why was the meeting changed?  I was the cause. I will be at a family fishing reunion on the 15th.  My brother and I are meeting at the San Juan River in New Mexico for a four day fishing trip.  The only time we could get our sons and sons-in-law all together was that date.  My brother, our fly fishing expert from Colorado, is 83 and now is the time to do these unique excursions like fishing for trout on the legendary San Juan.  I appreciate the town board’s willingness to change our meeting time for this month.

With the fall season approaching, the August meeting will have a full agenda.  I anticipate several reports and recommendations from town committees concerning some impending policy and ordinance changes.

At the August meeting I will lead a discussion on the issue of VRBO in Highlands.  The proliferation of VRBOs is a very current topic across the state and nation, especially in resort communities like our own.  At present we have no direct ordinances or policies that regulate folks renting their homes as a VRBOs.  There is a current proposed bill in Raleigh that would preempt municipalities from creating VRBO ordinances. On the other hand, numerous communities have passed such ordinances.

I have heard arguments from state legislators for and against such regulations and ordinances. Frankly, there are valid positions on both sides of the issue. I am not advocating for the town necessarilyy to take a position either way. But, I do think it will be helpful to review the issue to determine what action, if any, should be taken.

Some residents have told me they are upset about the number of visitors in town.  They tell me about how hard it is to park on Main Street and how the restaurants and stores are too crowded.  I also have experienced these situations. Sallie and I went downtown after 7 p.m. to eat dinner this week and had a very hard time finding a parking space near a Main Street restaurant. We had to walk about 200 yards. 

I am not making excuses for the parking situation. But, there are only so many spaces on Main Street, and frankly everyone wants and expects one of those prime spaces.  Highlands is now on the map.  The notion that this mountain jewel in Western North Carolina can somehow be hidden from the masses is long gone.  For that matter, all of Western North Carolina has been discovered as a great vacation getaway.  Given the cool temperatures in the summer and breathtaking scenery, we shouldn’t anticipate any decline in people visiting our community. A real problem for Highlands would be if in this robust economy we had empty parking spaces on Main Street.  Many small towns throughout the country suffer from that other parking problem. 

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