Mayor on Duty

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, August 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 son-in-laws 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 not advocating for the town necessary taking 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 find a 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 two hundred yards!

I 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 Carolina can somehow be hidden from the masses is long gone. For that matter, all of Western 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.

  • Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor

2 thoughts on “Mayor on Duty

  1. I would love to be at the August 22 meeting…but I have another commitment that will keep me away.

    Experience from another city (Chattanooga) that has passed a VRBO ordinance there are several items of interest.

    Definition – What is a Short Term Vacation Rental?

    A “Short-Term Vacation Rental” is any house or other structure containing no more than nine (9) bedrooms within permissible zones which is used, advertised or held out to the public in part or its entirety to be a place where sleeping accommodations are supplied for pay and such accommodations are provided on a daily or weekly basis for not more than (30) days for overnight stay. For the purposes of this definition, any short-term vacation rental on a site located wither in R-1 or R-2 Residential Zones shall contain no more than five (5) bedrooms and shall exclude hotels, rooming houses, bed and breakfast, and boarding houses or other licensed dwelling units for rent or lease.

    1. The City moved regulation of this issue from the “Zoning” ordinances to the “business licensing section of the City code. That is… these are a business and some are owner-occupied while others are non-owner occupied residences (and fall under different rules).
    2. Every VRBO is required to obtain a business license. Not sure, but I believe they may be required to get a county license also.
    3. Every VRBO application requires a site to meet a “Code Compliance Certification” as part of the license process. This addresses safety and other related residence issues.
    4. Applicable taxes are collected for rentals (either through an outside agency like AirBnB or directly from the owner).

    Full information on the Chattanooga ordinance is available at:

  2. Short Term Rentals (STR) regulation needs to be addressed before it becomes a huge problem. One community, Sedona, AZ, has seen its residential areas taken over by developers who purchase homes for this reason, and by building new homes specifically to be used as STRs. STRs potentially can change the character of a neighborhood. We need to be proactive concerning this new trend.

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