What’s new on the plateau

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Patrick Taylor Highlands Mayor

I give folks my cell number, (828) 506-3138, and tell them to call me if they have questions or concerns.  I have been receiving several calls in the past week about the relocation of the upcoming Bear Shadow Concert.  The questions center around why did the town allow this event to move and be held in Horse Cove?

My response is that the town didn’t approve the change. Actually, Highlands has no oversight over the Horse Cove community since it is outside the town limits. If the concert had been held in Founder’s Park, the town would have had an approval role.  But, organizers of the event decided to move it from Highlands to Horse Cove.

The county may have some limited role in approving the event, but there are no zoning limitations outside the town limits.  The county does have building code and land disturbance ordinances but not designated zones.  Highlands, on the other hand, has zoning ordinances designating certain areas in the town as either residential or business zones.

About a decade ago, the town adopted an extra territorial jurisdiction that included Horse Cove. As a part of ETJ, zoning districts were developed, including residential zones.  As some will recall, ETJ was not well received by many people, especially residents in the ETJ.  I was not the mayor at the time of the creation of the ETJ, but was a member of the planning board that recommended its adoption.  Folks in Horse Cove and other areas let everyone know they did not want to be in the ETJ, and that there were no worries about zoning and development, especially in isolated areas of the county like Horse Cove. The town board rescinded ETJ.

Flash forward a decade and there are really no isolated, unknown areas in Western Carolina.  Some people have expressed a concern that such an event being held in Horse Cove may be a prelude of further expansion in this small community, with even the location of commercial enterprises. Is a “Woodstock for Boomers” next for this beautiful valley? Or, maybe a residential development with shops and amenities?

I really don’t have an answer for those concerns, but the recently proposed 57-acre Cashiers Hillside development may really be a marker for future developments throughout the area.  I hope regional  county and municipal leaders are reviewing and even implementing policies to address these trends.  The Highlands Community Plan is coming at a critical moment for Highlands’ future.

Years ago, a strategy was to entice businesses to locate in Western North Carolina. Having few regulatory impediments, such as zoning, was intended to promote economic development and growth. Under current circumstances those incentives for development and growth may not be needed.  I anticipate towns and counties of Western North Carolina are going to be growing at astounding rates.  The question is how will this exploding growth be shaped and developed?

Yes, growth brings economic development and more money.  It may also have unintentional consequences, like losing a natural paradise.

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