Town Board considers a myriad of topics

During the public comment period of the July Town Board meeting, commissioners heard from Bob Irwin concerning Short-term Rentals, (see story above) from Dennis Wilson about renovating the Community Building kitchen and from Dr. Scott Baker about parking.

Speaking for Highlands Rotary, Wilson suggested the kitchen in the Community Building needed a major overhaul – at the estimated cost of $100,000. He said Rotary had fundraising ideas but also said it would be asking the town to contribute funds.

Dr. Baker said the lack of parking at the Professional Center at the corner of 5th and Spring streets is making it hard for his staff and his patients to find a spot. There is parking in the building’s parking lot but there are rarely open spots.

He said he has had to park streets away but for his ill and elderly patients, that isn’t a convenient possibility. He asked if the town could designate some spots on Spring Street for the Professional Center use.

Typically, though the board hears the requests made during public comment, action isn’t taken until the requests are researched by town staff.

After the public comment period, Robin Tindal with Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation introduced the two doctors manning Blue Ridge Health located in the Jane Woodruff building on the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital campus.

Both family practitioners Ann Davis, MD and Kristy Fincher, DO are seeing patients in their offices in the Jane Woodruff Clinic and welcome everyone – infants and the elderly.

Pictured at the top of the article are Blue Ridge Health doctors, Ann Davis and Kristy Fincher, addressing the Town Board at last week’s meeting.

MD means “doctor of medicine” and DO stands for “doctor of osteopathic medicine.” 

Osteopathic physicians base diagnosis and treatment on the idea that the body’s systems are interconnected. Instead of treating specific symptoms or illnesses, DOs regard and treat the body as an integrated whole. which refers to a specific approach to medical education that began in the mid-19th century.

Davis said her first day she saw an infant and a 95-year-old and equated that wide spectrum to true family practice. 

Tom Neal with Highlands Cashiers Hospital said the CNA education program has graduated its first group and within a month will start the second six-week program with 10 students.

He said they are considered full-time while in the school and are paid and receive benefits and get a sign-on bonus when they complete the program. 

About seven years into the 10-year contract with Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) which owns the hospital, Neal said he is “blown away” by the financial commitment of $7 million HCA as made to update the hospital’s infrastructure.

He said it is the hospital’s goal to be the provider of choice for healthcare in Highlands and Cashiers.

During the Mayor Reports, Mayor Pat Taylor presented several issues he wants the Land Use Committee to review.

First, he said that there have been a lot of complaints about construction noise during off hours.

Commercial construction is only allowed weekdays from 7:30a to 6p. Workers painting quietly inside a structure are not considered “heavy construction” which is what the town’s ordinance addresses.

Commercial Landscape companies are lumped in with construction, so they aren’t supposed to be working on weekends either.

“Some of their equipment can make as much noise as that used by construction crews,” said the mayor.

Homeowners are allowed to do landscaping on the weekends and after hours on weekdays however he said there is some ambiguity in the ordinance which he wants the Land Use Committee to address. 

Second, he said there have been complaints about loud music generated by bands. According to the ordinance, band music is supposed to stop by 11p, but he said it may need to be adjusted and suggested the Land Use Committee also review that.

The last issue was about alcoholic beverages being allowed in K-H Founders Park on July 4.

This year music in the park was on Saturday, July 3, and it was about as crowded as it was on Sunday, July 4. People didn’t understand why they could drink alcohol in the park on Saturday but not on Sunday. 

Initially, Police Chief Andrea Holland said she was worried about the mixture of alcohol and the increased number of vehicles on the road generated by July 4th activities in the park with people leaving when it’s dark compared to their leaving when it’s light after a typical Saturday night of music.

On May 13, a Petition for Rezoning was submitted to the Planning Department by Bennett Williams for his property at 1459 South 4th Street. The lot is .28 acres and zoned B-3 Commercial, but the building operates as a single-family dwelling. Williams equested the property be rezoned to R-1 to fit the residential nature of the building. The Planning Board reviewed the item on May 24 and recommended approval but at the July Town Board meeting commissioners denied the request 3-1. Commissioner Marc Hehn voted “no” to denying the request. Commissioners Amy Patterson and John Dotson had the most to say about the issue.

“It’s zoned B-3 but it is multi-use which means residential is allowed, but if we make it R1, the only thing it can be is a single-family residence,” said Patterson. “Later, it might be best as a home with a home occupation and if it’s rezoned R1 they can’t do it.”

Both commissioners said Highlands needs places other than the downtown business area for businesses.

“Highlands makes money because people come here to spend it and we need places for businesses to fuel our economy,” said Patterson. “If we rezone everything in our corridors to something other than business, we are limiting our future.”

Commissioner Dotson said simply that there are businesses needed in Highlands that have no business being on Main Street and there needs to be places zoned for them.

“Main Street rent is astronomical so to take a potential business property and convert it to R1 is restricting the future potential of that property,” he said. “Besides, residential is allowed in the B3 district.”

Article and photo by Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper

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