Tonight is the January meeting of the Highlands Town Board. It will be a ZOOM meeting that starts at 7 pm. The ZOOM access information is on the town website HERE. (Or click HERE and enter webinar ID and Passcode). We will begin the meeting with public comment. If anyone wants to make a public comment, or a comment for the public hearing on the agenda, please call in advance town hall at 828.526.2118, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will place folks on a list so we don’t miss anyone wishing to speak.
At the beginning of the meeting, I will publicly thank Tom Neal and the staff of the Highlands Cashiers Hospital for their work in quickly setting up a COVID-19 vaccination program at the Highlands Recreation Center.
Vaccinations began yesterday and will continue for possibly two months. I will ask Tom to give us an update on the vaccination program. I have been amazed at how quickly the vaccinations have started.
I am reluctant to provide vaccine information in the limited space of this column. Also, Macon County website and the Highlands Cashiers Hospital websites have the information. People who are not internet active can call the Macon County COVID-19 Vaccination Call Center at 828.349.2517 for assistance.
I do encourage all residents 65 and older to get the vaccination during this new phase. Even with the vaccination we will still need to wear masks, socially distance and frequently wash our hands for several more months. I’m still optimistic that 2021 will be the year we turn the corner on this virus and go back to some kind of normal living.
Also, at tonight’s meeting there will be a public hearing concerning an annexation petition from a resident on Arnold Road. A board decision will follow after this hearing.
On another note, the data collected from the Highland Community Plan survey is now being reviewed and discussed. The steering committee recently met with the plan professionals to conduct a first review of the information. Information about the Highlands Community Plan can be accessed through the town website.
Some items at the top of the priority list were short term rentals and the environment. Many full-time residents want the town board to address the short-term rental issue. An overall impression that I got from the survey results is that people are very concerned about the preservation of this unique environment and the appearance of the town. Many people worry that the pressure for development will destroy of the beautiful Highlands area.
The folks in Cashiers are also engaged in this discussion as a review of a proposed large-scale development in Cashiers is now underway. Issues such as traffic congestion and water and sewer resources are primary concerns.
Ironically, some of the most outspoken advocates for limited development are our most recent residents. It is a recurring narrative, “I’m here, so now no more development or growth, except I do want all the amenities of the large city I fled.”
Preservation versus progress will continue to be an ongoing balancing act on the plateau.
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor