The times they are a changing, even in Highlands. Some changes will be good, some bad and some have yet to be determined. Let me review several changes.
Some changes are not decided at the local level, but rather by national trends. For instance, the closing of PNC, Bank of America, and the merging of Entegra and First Citizens is not just a local decision. Across the country folks have stopped using branch banks. Phone books and Yellow Pages are history. The post office has changed in order to survive. New business have been created to meet new demands in advertising and package delivery. Highlands is not immune from emerging, national trends.
One local change has been in the closure of several restaurants and the opening of others. Is this phenomena an ominous sign concerning the local economy? Not really. I once heard Mike Thompson present a history of the Highlands restaurant business. Mike reviewed an unbelievably long list of restaurants that have opened and closed. These latest closures are simply a part of an ongoing history and business cycle.
There are several new storefront changes on Main Street. Photographs from the 1980’s or 90’s reveal that changes in the downtown scape have continually taken place.
One Main Street change, the way downtown visitors on our public sidewalks are now being engaged by a few merchants, is problematic. I do not think our Main Street should operate like a metropolitan shopping mall, nor a midway with carnival barkers hawking merchandise. Our business community and elective officials need to again review such practices to determine what is best for the business district, our residents, and visitors.
Some impending changes will impact our entire community. One major change will be the operation of the sanitation department. The first change is underway. The new bear proof street cans currently being installed. The next change will be the transition to using more bear resistant toters in the commercial districts. This change, as well as a later transition to bear resistant toters in residential areas, will require change and cooperation from all residents. The bear problem and the health and safety of our sanitation workers drive these necessary changes.
Outcomes from some recent changes, like the Mission HCA conversion, remain to be determined. The best possible outcome for our hospital will be driven by community support and our use of the facilities and services. The formation of the Highlands Cashiers Foundation is a change that has tremendous potential to impact the health and wellness of this area.
Finally, there are pending changes coming from Raleigh that will not be good. HB 971 would close our ABC store and privatize the sale of spirituous liquor, aka alcohol. The over 430 state operated ABC stores would be replaced with 1,500 private stores. This legislation is a bad idea. HB 645 and SB 534 propose changes to billboard laws. Local billboard ordinances would be preempted. I will inform our representatives that I am against these changes.
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor