Mayor on Duty

There has been a strong community response to the plan to locate the Bear Shadow Concert from Founders Park to Horse Cove. Residents in Horse Cove had legitimate concerns about having a musical concert in their quiet residential community. 

As one Horse Cove resident put it, why should a small, quite community have to endure a concert that is intended to promote the businesses of Highlands? They have a point. Whether the concert is held at Horse Cove, or at another location on the Highlands Plateau, the greater community should pause and reflect on where this business promotion model is headed.

While it was announced that during the COVID-19 restrictions that the proposed concert would limit the number attending, some folks wondered what size such an event would become once the pandemic subsides? 

Would future events be 2000, 4000, or even more? Could the plateau develop into a major outdoor musical concert, festival venue attracting nationally known groups and visitors from major metropolitan areas? 

Some would welcome such events for the purpose of promoting Highlands businesses and the expansion of hotel and VBRO facilities.

Now some readers may think my picture of the future is an exaggeration, but it is a prospect that concerns many residents. It is a view of what may be welcomed in larger billboards and suburban spread with fast food joints on every corner. 

People living here want to be in the beautiful nature and experience what visionaries like Thoreau and Muir advocated. As John Prine sang, people want their friends to be simple and plain as they step down from their new train into this welcoming community, and for some, sacred ground. 

To lose our distinctive community character to where the lines between neighborhoods and commercial enterprises are blurred could have lasting negative impacts. The Highlands Community Plan will address many of these concerns. The Highlands Chamber of Commerce is also developing a new business plan that hopefully will address the dynamic of commercial promotion in balance with community preservation.

So, am I against concerts? No, but I do think there needs to be a community conversion involving the town, businesses and residents about the future initiatives. I support defined zones for business activities, residential neighborhoods and public events spaces. 

Having concerts in Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park was, and continues to be, a great idea. They should continue, although the size of the space will impose limitations, along with current town ordinances and policies. About 1,500 people would be the maximum capacity for the park.

On the other hand, concerts in that space do not invade the settings for our surrounding neighborhoods. But, if they were to do so, residents have recourse to address the issue with the Town Board. Having concerts in large open spaces outside the town have no such restrictions.  Macon County does not have land use policies or restrictions to regulate such events.

Maybe it is time for the county to also address these potential developments. County residents, with unlimited use of their land, could be just one event away from impacting their neighbors’ enjoyment of their property.

Read more about the Highlands Community Plan HERE.

  • Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor

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