Lamar Nix, Town Engineer, presented the proposal, which was designed by Henry Ross, Ross Landscape Architecture, PLLC. The plan calls for replacing the concrete with brick pavers, installing new drainage, and the installation of benches, a retaining wall and new plants. The plan also calls for a pedestrian pod that will protrude onto Main Street.
Nix says the plantings will include trees, dwarf inkberry hollies, Otto Luyken laurels and daylilies. The trees Ross proposed are the Zelkova serrata—Green Vase. Ross say, “Zelkova is a fast growing, graceful tree suitable as a replacement for American Elms, tolerant of urban conditions and is resistant to Dutch elm disease. Zelkova serrata ‘Green Vase’ is upright-vased in growth habit with strongly ascending branches, growing to 65 ft. tall by 55 ft. wide, with yellow-orange to bronze-red fall color. This cultivar, ‘Green Vase’ is an excellent selection for the street because the branches grow very upright and away from passing vehicles. The tree is very hardy in severe the Highlands’ zone 5 winters.”
Ross pegs the costs of the project at $64,700.00. Town Manager Jim Fatland says funds for the project are included in this year’s budget.
Nix reported that he had presented the proposal to Highlands’ Appearance Commission and both the owners of the building at the corner and the operators of Highlands Hill Deli, based in the building. “Everyone is tickled with what we have planned,” Nix says. Nix also reported that the Appearance Committee had made a few suggestions as to modifications to the plan. These included moving the benches from the street side of the sidewalk and placing them next to the building; making the retaining wall wide enough for people to sit on; and doing away with the steps down to the street.
Commissioner Amy Patterson objected to widening the retaining wall. She said, “The sidewalk is narrow anyway. If you have people sitting on benches on one side and people sitting on the retaining wall on the other with their legs stretched out, there’ll hardly be room for people to walk by.”
Mayor David Wilkes agreed. He said, “Our goal is to make our streets ‘pedestrian friendly.’ We should have as much walking space as possible.”
Nix said that if the project was going to be done this year, it would have to be completed by April (ahead of the season). “To do so, we would have to begin around the first week in March,” he said “Otherwise, we will have to wait until next year. With good weather, we can complete the project in three weeks.”
The commissioners voted unanimously to go ahead with the streetscape project with the suggested modification, except widening the retaining wall, at a cost not to exceed $64,700.00. Commissioners Amy Patterson, John Dotson and Dennis DeWolf were the only commissioners present.
Animal Ordinance is simplified
Commissioners also discussed the Highlands animal ordinance. Bill Coward, Town Attorney presented a study of animal ordinances from existing state law, existing Macon County ordinance, existing Jackson County ordinance and the existing Town of Highlands ordinance.
The Town of Highlands has no animal control department or personnel. Bill Harrell, Highlands Chief of Police, reported that the Town does not have any equipment to aid in catching dogs or other animals or anything to keep them in once caught. As a result, the Town has authorized Macon County, with its Animal Control Division, to enforce animal control in the Town of Highlands.
From the study presented by Coward, it was obvious that Highlands had a number of provisions that overlapped those from Macon County’s ordinance.
Commissioners then voted unanimously to eliminate all but three provisions form the Highlands Animal Ordinance. Those the Town will keep are:
• Prohibiting the keeping of nuisance dogs (habitual barkers).
• Prohibiting dogs from entering or remaining in the Highlands Ball Park.
• Prohibiting dogs from defecating on public streets, sidewalks or other public areas without picking it up.
As a matter of community interest, since almost all complaints come to the Highlands Police Department, Harrell says his department will report the complaint to the Macon County Animal Control Division, rather than telling the person to call Macon County. He also says that his department will make a judgment as to whether the complaint warrants immediate attention from local police rather than waiting on someone from the county to arrive.
Harrell did say that response time from Macon County’s Animal Control Division had improved since it had been separated from the Sheriff’s Department.
With the streetscape project and the animal control ordinance taken care of during the special 4:00 P.M. meeting, the regular Town Board meeting held at 7:00 P.M. on the same day may have been the shortest Board meeting on record, lasting only 16 minutes.
In that time, however, the Board took action that included:
• A report by the Town Manager that sales tax distribution was on target. The latest receipt on February 15 for the month of December was $59,316.57.
• A reported by the Mayor that in addition to the annual golf tournament fund raiser for the Town’s Scholarship Funds, there would also be a fly-fishing tournament. The 3-day event will take place in May.
• A unanimous vote (Four commissioners present: the three from the afternoon meeting plus Larry Rogers) to approve changes in the Highlands Fire and Rescue Department bylaws. This concerned new age limits (18-45), new members and required training (36 hours).
• A unanimous vote to approve the closing of Pine Street between 4th and 5th Streets for the 4th annual Highlands Motoring Festival. In making the request, Knight Martorell, member of the Highlands Motoring Festival Committee, said this year’s festival would be a 3-day event, although the car show would only last one day.