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Town of Highlands, NC - 1989 Land Use Plan

The Land Use Plan

Town of Highlands

State of North Carolina
As adopted by the Board of Commissioners
September 20, 1989


 

Introduction

"In the long run, the race belongs not merely to the swift, but to the farseeing . . . to those who anticipate change." - Lykes Lines

This Land Use Plan is a document of action that is intended to enhance the quality of life in the Town of Highlands. It was developed in response to the concerns expressed in the 1988 Public Opinion Survey and by the Land Use Planning Committee responsible for creating this document. The Survey results were used as the cornerstone of all discussions. The Plan was developed over a period of ten months, and incorporated advice from scores of professionals in the field of land management from North Carolina and across the nation. While the Plan addresses many of the concerns identified in the Survey, the results will not solve every problem or bring immediate relief to every situation. Implementing the Plan will take time and adjustments along the way. Its success will only be realized through a long process of hard work, strong citizen support, and a progressive spirit of cooperation on the part of everyone.

The planning process began by identifying the most valued qualities of life in Highlands and the surrounding area, and expressing these in the form of Mission Statements. Each Mission Statement was then followed by a series of specific actions or strategies designed to realize its objective. This planning approach is called Strategic Planning. It is an approach to problem solving that has been used by industry for more than twenty years, and was adopted for use in government almost a decade ago. It is a method of focusing efforts and setting the stage for results by, first, looking outward into the community and clarifying the most important issues, and second, conducting a realistic analysis of the steps necessary to address these issues in an action-oriented plan. The process is typically described in six parts, as follows:

1. The Environmental Scan: This first part is an effort to see the "big picture" of where the community stands in the context of its history, present day situation, and future vision.

2. The Mission Statement: The Environmental Scan gives light to a list of issues that is narrows to those most critical to the community's well being.

3. The External and Internal Analysis: Once the key issues are chosen, a probing examination is undertaken to fully understand the context and depth of the various situations.

4. Strategy Development: Following the mission statements, clear steps or actions are stated that will effectively achieve the desired results. Each set of actions must be sensitive to realities of the situation, and effectively use the resources of the community.

5. The Action Plan: Here the responsibility of carrying out each action called for in the plan is assigned to a particular board, committee, department, or individual, along with a due date and budget.

6. Implementation, Update, and Adjustment: While no plan is guaranteed success, every effort must be made to achieve the plan's mission and future vision. Thus, the purpose of this step is to provide some degree of flexibility and opportunity for midcourse adjustment. If properly conceived, the Mission Statements should not need modification. Changes should occur in the strategies chosen to accomplish the individual missions.

Implementation of this Land Use Plan should move government operations from a reactive mode to a mode of foresight and anticipation. In addition, it should provide a vehicle for the public to understand government action. These two forces should foster one another, and create a sense of progress and accomplishment.

Finally, attention should be called to the Plan's three appendices:

  • Appendix I: Results of the Public Opinion Survey.
  • Appendix II: The Natural Environment
  • Appendix III: Social and Cultural Characteristics.

These documents contain most of the background information used to develop the Plan. Their use as a reference is important in understanding the significance of the plan strategies.

Suggested References:

Brower, David J., et. al., Managing Development in Small Towns, Planners Press, Chicago, 1984.
So, Frank S., "Strategic Planning: Reinventing the Wheel?" in Planning Magazine, February, 1984.
Jenne, Kurt, et. al., "Strategic Planning: Taking Charge of the Future," in N. C. Popular Government, Spring, 1986.
Daniels, T., Small Town Planning Handbook, Planners Press, Chicago, 1988.

Statement of Mission

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The General Mission Statement given below encapsulates the essence of this Land Use Plan. With these words, full recognition is given to the fact that the Town's natural setting is the stage upon which all aspects of community life revolve and depend. It is from this point that the work begins for ensuring the continued quality of life in Highlands and its surrounding area. Through the adoption of this general mission statement, the Town is embarking on a clear course of action that will need the support of all its residents. The General Implementation Strategies that follow the Mission Statement detail the Town Board of Commissioners' commitment to this Plan, and the vision brought about through its successful implementation.

General Mission Statement

Preserve, protect, and enhance those gifts of nature which make up the unique quality of our Town and its environs.

This Land Use Plan is a document of action that is intended to e4nhance the quality of life in the Town of Highlands. It was developed in response to the concerns expressed in the 1988 Public Opinion Survey and by the Land Use Planning Committee responsible for creating this document. The Survey results were used as the cornerstone of all discussions. The Plan was developed over a period of ten months, and incorporated advice from scores of professionals in the field of land management from North Carolina and across the nation. While the Plan addresses many of the concerns identified in the Survey, the results will not solve every problem or bring immediate relief to every situation. Implementing the Plan will take time and adjustments along the way. Its success will only be realized through a long process of hard work, strong citizen support, and a progressive spirit of cooperation on the part of everyone.

General Implementation Strategies

Strategy 1: Implement all Mission Statements of this Land Use Plan. (1 Town Board.)

Strategy 2: Pursue each strategy within the time specified for implementation and, when necessary, make adjustments that are in keeping with the mission statements. (2 Town Board.)

Strategy 3: Ensure that adequate staff support and funding are available for Plan implementation. (3 Town Board.)

Strategy 4: As time and resources permit, identify additional strategies to further realize the missions of this Plan. (4 Town Board.)

Strategy 5: Assume the responsibility of amending this Plan should circumstances and conditions in the Town radically change. (5 Town Board.)

Strategy 6: Welcome and manage community efforts designed to support implementation of this Land Use Plan. (6 Town Board.)

Beneath this broad Mission lies a series of statements directed towards specific components of the Community. These statements of mission focus on the following aspects of the community.

Subsequent sections examine the separate aspects of Highlands in detail, and identify strategies to accomplish the desired mission. In many cases, the strategies are overlapping, and their implementation may actually support more than one mission. For this reason, the Plan should be approached as a unified document. If a particular strategy impacts more than one mission, it is stated once under its primary heading and is not repeated.

Natural Environment

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Volumes of facts and study materials could be prepared attesting to the unique qualities of the Highlands natural environment. It is truly an area of magnificent beauty and unusual attraction. While all of this information is important, certain facts have been highlighted in support of the strategies contained in this section. This information generally falls into three interrelated categories:

  • Soils and soil structure
  • Water quality and hydrology
  • Wildlife and ecology

Soils and soil structure are aspects of the environment that are most frequently overlooked and taken for granted. They are, however, resources of immeasurable value, and are the telling factors of not only ecological richness, but also constraints to growth. With careful planning, a developed environment can coexist with the natural environment. If proper care is not taken, the developed environment can continue, but it will do so at the expense of resource ecology. A careful examination of the soils found in the Highlands Township reveals that they are generally very fragile, and very susceptible to erosion when disturbed. More specifically, approximately 80% of the land area has a soil type with a severe rating for septic field absorption. Less than 2% of the land area is ideally suited for all types of development. Almost 46% of the soils have an exceptionally high rate of erodability when disturbed or not properly maintained. These same soil types present severe limitations on the construction of roads and buildings due to their structure.

Soil scientists have determined that, under normal conditions, nature will create one inch of topsoil every 500 years in a typical deciduous forest environment. The soil conditions in the Highlands area are more extreme than average, and this rate of creation is probably much longer. More importantly, the sensitivity to soil loss is significantly greater and requires a correspondingly greater amount of care as development occurs.

The second major environmental consideration is water and the region's hydrology. With the exception of the Pacific Northwest, Highlands has one of the highest annual rainfalls in the country, averaging 84.9 inches. The abundance of this resource is in evidence everywhere, and a relationship can easily be drawn to the area's lush vegetation and diverse ecology. Even though 60% of the Highlands Township's classified waters are suitable for trout propagation, there are reasons to be concerned about the continued quality of this resource. First, there is a significant sedimentation problem that is adversely impacting the area's waterways. An indication of this problem is the absence of water lilies from impounded water bodies. A more in depth examination of the sedimentation problem would reveal other effects on plant and animal species. Second, the drinking water supply of the Town comes from the Cullasaja River and Big Creek watersheds. These two watersheds yield water of high quality, but their continued development could jeopardize this resource. Storm water runoff, increased sedimentation from development, poorly functioning septic tanks, and activities common to land management such as the use of lawn chemicals, can all effect the drinking water supply and water quality in general.

The third major environmental consideration is the area's wildlife and ecology. At the present time, the limited amount of biological data indicates that the Township is exceptionally diverse. There are documented sightings of many rare and endangered plants and animals, and many species found only in distant parts of the hemisphere. The explanation for this phenomenon is that, during the last ice age, the higher elevations served as a refuge for all wildlife. After the ice retreated, most species were able to reestablish themselves throughout the continent. However, some species were left in isolated pockets and were unable to proliferate. Highlands is one of these "special areas," and continues to be an important environment because of its topography, wild climate, and plentiful water supply.

In light of this information, the following Mission Statement and related strategies are designed to squarely address the issue of protecting environmental quality:

Mission Statement

Maintain or improve the present quality of the natural environment.

Implementation Strategies:

Strategy 1: Implement a general environmental program that will work to improve conditions throughout the community. This program includes the following elements:

(a) Review the requirements of the North Carolina Ridge Law and assume responsibility for its implementation within the Community's jurisdiction.(7 Planning Board; due 6/90; update every 5 years.)

(b) Implement standards that will effectively protect trees and the vegetative character of the community. (8 Planning Board; due 6/90; update every 3 years.)

(c) Support the preparation of a natural areas inventory for the Township, and efforts to protect the resources identified in this inventory. (9 Planning Board; due 6/91; cost estimate $14,000; no update.)

(d) Encourage and support community programs of resource conservation, wildlife protection, and environmental education. This includes, for example, efforts such as trash recycling, the peregrine falcon release program, etc. (10 Planning Board; due 6/90; special appropriation; annual update.)

(e) Acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of the F.A.C.E. program, and other groups that work to improve the quality of the community's general environment. (11 Town Board; due 6/90; special appropriation; annual update.)

(f) Require that an Environmental Impact Assessment be submitted for all disturbed land areas greater than one acre as part of the development process. The criteria for the assessment shall be developed by the Town and incorporated in the Zoning permitting process. (12 Planning Board; due 6/90; review within 3 years and update every 5 years thereafter.)

(g) Develop and periodically review emergency procedures for the control of hazardous substances accidentally spilled along the Community's roadways. (13 Planning Board; due 6/91; update every 5 years.)

(h) Exercise a one mile extraterritorial planning jurisdiction, and extend zoning and subdivision regulations within this area. (14 Town Board; due 12/89.)

Strategy 2: Implement a drinking water supply/watershed management program that will effectively support a WSII water quality classification. This program includes the following elements:

(a) Define and officially designate the Cullasaja River and the Big Creek watersheds as the drinking water supply sources for the Town. (15 Planning Board; due 12/89.)

(b) Seek special enabling legislation from the North Carolina General Assembly to extend the extraterritorial planning authority throughout sections of the officially recognized watershed that lie beyond the one mile limit. (16 Town Board; due 6/91.)

(c) Incorporate storm water runoff controls in the Zoning Ordinance that would require:

(1) all new development to retain the water runoff of a ten year storm (2.8 inches in one hour) on site for at least 24 hours; and

(2) all new development to channel runoff through vegetated infiltration areas, detention/retention basins, etc., prior to entry into any creek, stream, or water body. (17 Planning Board; due 6/90; review within 3 years and update every 5 years thereafter.)

(d) Incorporate stormwater runoff controls in the Zoning Ordinance that would require:

(1) maintenance of a vegetated buffer;

(2) strict sedimentation and erosion control provisions; and

(3) prohibition of impervious surfaces (subject to a conditional use permit). (18 Planning Board; due 6/90; review within 3 years and update every 5 years thereafter.)

(e) Establish a two acre minimum lot size in the designated watersheds, with a "grandfather" provision for previously subdivided lots. (19 Planning Board; due 6/90; review within 3 years and update every 5 years thereafter.)

(f) Contact all property owners within the watersheds, and inform them that their property is within an environmentally sensitive area and that the Town will assist those planning to develop their property to consider watershed protection. (20 Planning Board; due 9/90; update every 5 years.)

(g) Seek elimination of all inadequate onsite sewage treatment systems and place priority on providing sewer service within the watersheds, particularly to properties around Mirror Lake and Lake Sequoyah. (21 Town Board; due 6/91; cost unknown; ongoing effort.)

(h) Examine all existing stormwater outfalls within the watersheds to determine if modification could be made to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff by redirecting it into woodlands, infiltration basins, or other areas. (22 Planning Board; due 12/91; cost unknown; ongoing effort.)

(i) Petition the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission to upgrade the water classification of the watersheds after the Town has implemented the preceding strategies. (23 Planning Board; due 9/91.)

(j) Periodically assess drinking water quality and quantity to determine if additional action is needed to protect these resources. (24 Planning Board; due 9/90; cost unknown; update every 2 years.)

Strategy 3: Implement a general water quality program that will work to improve conditions throughout the Community. This program includes the following elements:

(a) Sponsor a cooperative effort between the Town, the North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service, and the golf associations within the planning jurisdiction to improve the selection and use of fairway chemicals. (25 Planning Board; due 12/90; update every 5 years.)

(b) Sponsor biannual educational programs for the Community to encourage proper use and disposal of chemicals used in and around the home. (26 Planning Board; due 6/91; update every 2 years.)

Strategy 4: Implement a general land quality program that will work to improve the conditions throughout the community. This program includes the following elements:

(a) Improved seeding and landscaping of utility rightsofway. (27 Appearance Commission; due 12/90; cost unknown; review within 3 years and update every 5 years thereafter.)

(b) Identify areas with steep slopes, where improper development could result in increased erosion and sedimentation. Develop appropriate standards to reduce density and environmental impact in these areas. (28 Planning Board; due 6/90; update every 5 years.)

Residential Areas

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The residential areas of Highlands are cherished for their charm, upkeep, low density, and single family orientation. They are a true reflection of the level of care and interest that people have for the Community. Many homes have been owned by the same family for generations. This has contributed to neighborhood stability and strengthened the bonds between the people and the environment. A home in Highlands has been historically used as a summer retreat and a true source of escape and rejuvenation for its owners.

Over the last decade, the southeastern United States has been discovered as a desirable place to work and live. This interest has brought with it a tremendous influx of people and improvement in the region's road system. The improved accessibility has created a boom in tourism and second home development. The Town of Highlands is caught in the middle of this wave, and there is a sense that the qualities of isolation and escape are threatened. Fortunately, there is also a belief that all is not lost, and that a more sophisticated system of development controls could serve to protect those qualities held dear by its residents.

The following Mission Statement and related strategies has been developed for the protection of the residential areas:

Mission Statement

Promote a neighborhood atmosphere made up of low-density housing that blends with the natural environment and preserves the Town's historical roots.

Strategy 1: Continue implementation of the Zoning Ordinance as it relates to residential areas. Adjustments to this Ordinance should be made as follows:

(a) Incorporate the Sign Ordinance into the Zoning Ordinance, and adjust sign requirements to residential areas. (29 Planning Board; due 6/90; review within 3 years and update every 5 years thereafter.)

(b) Amend Zoning Ordinance to distinguish between mobile, manufactured, and modular homes, and propose regulations on their placement and appearance. (30 Planning Board; due 6/90; update every 5 years.)

Strategy 2: Maintain the appearance of residential areas and work to protect historic properties. This program includes the following elements:

(a) Incorporate basic appearance standards and landscape requirements into the Zoning Ordinance. (31 Appearance Commission; due 6/90; review within 3 years and update every 5 years thereafter.)

(b) Recognize and protect historic properties through the creation of an Historic Properties Commission (see Municipal Government Structure). (32 Town Board; due 12/89.)

(c) Improve the appearance and design of road cuts to reduce sedimentation and provide landscaping. (33 Appearance Commission; due 12/90; review within 3 years and update every 5 years thereafter.)

Strategy 3: Initiate a community natural areas and greenways program. This program includes the following elements:

(a) Encourage the creation of an independent nonprofit Land Trust that would work in cooperation with the Town to protect natural areas and create a system of greenways throughout the community. (34 Town Board; due 6/90; update every 3 years.)

(b) Establish a source of funding that would be passed from local government to the Land Trust on a contractual basis for the acquisition and management of priority properties. This funding source may be in the form of a general tax increase, a land transfer tax, etc. (35 Town Board; due 6/90.)

Strategy 4: Continue implementation of the Town's subdivision regulations. Adjustments to this Ordinance should be made as follows:

(a) Expand the Ordinance to require subdividers to provide open space, greenway access, etc. in support of the Community's natural areas and greenways initiative. (36 Planning Board; due 6/90; review within 3 years and update every 5 years thereafter.)

(b) Amend the Ordinance to reflect changes in the State enabling legislation, clarify the reasons for issuing a variance, and improve the general readability and structure of the document. (37 Planning Board; due 6/90; update every 5 years.)

Commercial Areas

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The commercial district is a bustling area of activity. While most small towns are trying to stimulate commerce, Highlands is in the enviable position of needing to manage its high rate of growth. The downtown is successful because of its quaint shops, clean environment, and rustic atmosphere that is not overstated. For many people, the downtown serves as a focus for social interaction. The general layout of the Town - the benches and rest areas - are elements that invite people to mingle and window shop.

While much can be said for the positive aspects of the downtown, it is not without its problems. The original layout of the central district never anticipated the high volume of traffic that moves through it, or the focused demand for parking. This situation is aggravated by the significant increase in tourism, and the development of "minimalls" and types of shops that require high volume patronage. Also, many new developments do not aesthetically blend in with the traditional architecture, and they have created an almost haphazard sense in their distribution. These problems have alarmed many residents of Town, and there is an outcry for strict management and effective planning.

Solutions to the problems of the commercial district need to balance the responsibilities of the public and private sectors. The public sector or municipal government has been given certain powers and authorities by the State Legislature to manage growth. These include zoning, subdivision regulations, and general authority to protect the public's health, safety, and general welfare. All of these powers are basic to "setting the stage" on which commercial activity and community life occur. The private sector also has certain rights, privileges, and responsibilities that may appear to be overlapping, but are separate and apart from those of government. These include the responsibility for directing commercial activities, advertising, and offering various types of goods and services. The public and private sectors have a common interest in the success of the commercial area, and need to proceed in tandem with one another as they exercise their rights and responsibilities.

The following Mission Statement and related set of strategies recognizes the distinct responsibilities of the private and public sectors:

Mission Statement

Realize a refined business environment that is enhanced by a stable mix of businesses, a complementary aesthetic character, and a general atmosphere that is conducive to social interaction.

Implementation Strategies

Strategy 1: Work to strengthen the relationship between the public and private sectors of the community. These efforts should include the following:

(a) Promote a jointly sponsored forum that will focus on downtown organization, promotion, design, and economic restructuring, as modeled after the North Carolina Main Street Program and supported by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. (38 Appearance Commission; due 12/90; cost estimate $2500.)

(b) Encourage and support efforts of the Chamber of Commerce to provide counseling for new businesses. This assistance would include statistical information on market conditions and needs, and information on permitting requirements of the Town. (39 Appearance Commission; due 6/90; update every 3 years.)

Strategy 2: Limit commercial growth, and improve the quality of new and existing development. This effort includes the following:

(a) Revise the Zoning Ordinance and Zoning Map to effectively:

(1) reduce the total area for commercial growth shown on the Zoning Map;

(2) adjust the distribution of zones allowing home occupations around the perimeter of the business district;

(3) develop and include appearance criteria for new and remodeled structures;

(4) study and adjust the standards for placement, distribution, design, and maintenance of signs;

(5) study and incorporate landscaping requirements for new and remodeled project sites; and

(6) add provisions requiring that all utilities be buried (including those for residential structures). (40 Planning Board; due 6/90; cost estimate $3000; review within 3 years and update every 5 years thereafter.)

(b) Develop and adopt a unified development permit ordinance that will allow sufficient time for project review and, where necessary, contact the Chamber of Commerce. (41 Planning Board; due 12/89; review within 3 years and update every 5 years thereafter.)

Strategy 3: Improve the social environment of the downtown. This should include the following measures:

(a) Adopt a functional definition of the downtown as a "walking district," and work to improve the ease of pedestrian access to all areas. (42 Appearance Commission; due 6/90; update every 10 years.)

(b) Initiate studies to examine pedestrian traffic, and propose improvements to sidewalks, paths, etc. (43 Appearance Commission; due 6/91; estimated cost of study $5000, estimated cost of improvements unknown; ongoing effort.)

Community Resources

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The commercial district is a bustling area of activity. While most small towns are trying to stimulate commerce, Highlands is in the enviable position of needing to manage its high rate of growth. The downtown is successful because of its quaint shops, clean environment, and rustic atmosphere that is not overstated. For many people, the downtown serves as a focus for social interaction. The general layout of the Town - the benches and rest areas - are elements that invite people to mingle and window shop.

  • The National Forests
  • The Hudson Library and Bascom-Louise Gallery
  • The Highlands-Cashiers Hospital
  • The Civic Center
  • The Highlands Biological Station and Nature Center
  • The Scottish Tartans Museum
  • The Studio for the Arts
  • The churches, schools, clubs, and organizations
  • The sponsored cultural activities

Mission Statement

Maintain or improve the present level of social and cultural opportunity in the community.

Implementation Strategies

Strategy 1: Provide continued recognition and support to all community groups, and encourage community participation in their activities. (44 Town Board; due 12/89; special appropriation; ongoing effort.)

Strategy 2: Conduct a study of the Highlands School and identify measures that can be taken to improve the overall quality of education. The study should include an examination of potential sources of supplemental funding. (45 Planning Board; due 12/90; update every 5 years.)

Municipal Government

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In order to carry out the full list of strategies identified in this Plan, some degree of change will be needed in the structure of municipal government. The first part of this restructuring will involve the consolidation, update, and refinement of the Town's ordinances. The current ordinance system has served the Community well until the most recent period of accelerated growth. Given this set of pressures, a more focused and manageable form of standards needs to be enacted. To this end, the Zoning Ordinance and the Subdivision Ordinance will be the principal tools for managing growth and development.

The second part of the municipal restructuring involves the creation of a joint commission for community appearance and the protection of historic properties. Support for both of these functions is found in the 1988 Public Opinion Survey. Models for this commission exist in other parts of the state and nation, and can be readily adapted for use in Highlands.
The third restructuring element involves setting and publicizing the committee structure of the Planning Board and, as necessary, the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The purpose of this is to encourage public involvement and ultimately enhance the responsiveness of government. The committee structure stated here may change over time, but will continue to be publicized.

The last element involves establishing a partnership with a private nonprofit land trust for the purpose of acquiring and protecting unique natural areas, and for developing a system of greenways throughout the Community. This could be accomplished by municipal government independently of a private corporation. However, based on the experiences of land trusts across the country, a partnership has proven to be more effective. The partnership agreement should annually specify both the level of funding and the specific projects the Town is interested in pursuing. Beyond this, the land trust would be free to acquire other properties, using independent sources of funding acquisition strategies.
With these changes in mind, the following Mission Statement and related strategies have been developed for municipal government:

Mission Statement

Provide a progressive government system that is responsive to the needs of the Community and enhances the quality of community life.

Implementation Strategies

Strategy 1: Maintain a high level of professionalism in the municipal staff through the following initiatives:

(a) Annually recognize and appreciate the work of the municipal staff through some formal program. (46 Town Board; due 12/89; special appropriation; ongoing effort.)

(b) Institute an employee suggestion system that will work to improve government and reward employee participation. (47 Town Board; due 6/90; ongoing effort.)

(c) Prepare a municipal organizational chart, and prepare a written job description for all positions. Review organizational chart and consider changes to improve municipal efficiency. (48 Town Board; due 6/90; update every 5 years.)

Strategy 2: Create a system of boards and commissions to successfully carry out the programs identified in this Plan.

(A) Maintain the following two boards and commissions for community service:

(1) The Planning Board with three standing committees:

(a) Environmental Protection.

(b) Land Use Plan Implementation and Community Involvement.

(c) Special Projects/Research and Development.

(2) The Zoning Board of Adjustment with no standing committees.

(3) A combined Appearance Commission and Historic Properties Commission with three standing committees:

(a) Architecture.

(b) Landscaping and Signs.

(c) Historic Preservation. (49 Town Board; due 12/89; update every 5 years.)

(B) Assign the responsibilities of implementing all strategies identified in this Land Use Plan to the appropriate board and commission. Section VI of this Plan lists each task, and identifies responsibility. (50 Town Board; due 9/89; update every 5 years.)

(C) Publicize the committee structure for each board and commission, and invite public comment and suggestions. (51 Town Board; due 9/89; update every 3 years.)

(D) Assign and schedule periods to review and update municipal ordinances. (52 Town Board; due 9/89; update every 5 years.)

Strategy 3: Establish a contractual agreement between the Town of Highlands and a local nonprofit land trust to acquire and manage lands identified through the natural areas inventory, and lands identified as part of a coordinated system of greenways. In the event that a contract cannot be successfully executed, the Town will assume the functions of this role. (See Appendix II for description of land trusts.) (53 Town Board; due 6/90;cost unknown; annual update.)

Municipal Services

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The survey found that municipal services were viewed with favor by the Town's people. A number of suggestions were given to improve service, which can be effectively addressed through in house work planning. The following Mission Statement and set of strategies are given to improve community service:

Mission Statement

Maintain or improve the level of community service.

General Implementation Strategies

Strategy 1: Direct each division of Government to prepare a five-year program that will address program changes and needs for staff, facilities, and equipment. Such plans should refer to and consider all suggestions made through the 1988 Public Opinion Survey. (54 Town Board; due 12/90; update every 5 years.)

Strategy 2: Mail annual letters to all property owners, highlighting accomplishments of the previous year and significant events of the upcoming year. (55 Town Board; due 3/90; annual update.)

Strategy 3: Review the specific concerns identified in the Public Opinion Survey, and address these problems in the division work plans. (56 Town Board; due 12/90; update every 5 years.)

Strategy 4: Formally accept the findings of the North Carolina Department of Transportation Parking Study, note any exceptions, and promptly implement all recommendations of the study. (57 Town Board; due 6/91; cost unknown.)

Strategy 5: Examine the road system in residential areas for safety, and develop a list of potential improvements. (58 Planning Board' due 12/90; cost unknown; update every 5 years.)

Strategy 6: Develop a five year recreation plan, giving added attention to programs for the youth and year round residents. (59 Planning Board; due 12/90; update every 5 years.)

Plan Implementation

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PHASE I July 1, 1989 through September 30, 1989.

1: Amend the Zoning Ordinance to control uses that will exacerbate parking and traffic problems in the downtown, and prohibit the creation of new shops of less than 800 square feet. The following temporary amendment is designed to accomplish this goal during the period of redrafting the Zoning Ordinance:

(a) Suspend the B1A District and temporarily designate the area as B1. All existing uses would be grandfathered and allowed to continue. In the event of a major fire or other catastrophe, the Planning Board would develop a variance procedure to allow replacement of lost structures. The parking requirements for businesses and retail stores would be changed to one space per 250 square feet of space. Businesses and retail stores could be converted to a different type, as long as the change did not increase the demand for parking.

(b) Prohibit all Special Uses from the B1 District.

(c) Prohibit the subdivision of shops into areas less than 800 square feet.

2: Rescind the moratorium on construction in the B1A District.

3: Call for the preparation of the following:

(a) An ordinance establishing an extraterritorial planning jurisdiction.

(b) A unified development permit ordinance that will specify procedures for reviewing development permit applications.

(c) An ordinance to establish a combined Appearance Commission and Historic Properties Commission.

(d) A redrafted Zoning Ordinance.

4: Contact the North Carolina Heritage Program in the Department of Natural Resources and Community Development and initiate a natural areas inventory for the Township. (Two year study; $7000 per year.)

PHASE II October 1, 1989 through December 31, 1989.

1: Adopt an ordinance establishing an extraterritorial planning jurisdiction, and extend zoning and subdivision regulations into this area.

2: Adopt the ordinance creating the combined Appearance Commission and Historic Properties Commission, appoint members, and charge them with both developing appearance standards for incorporation into the Zoning Ordinance and working to protect historic properties.

3: Call for the preparation of amendments to the Subdivision Ordinance.

4: Adopt the unified development permit ordinance.

PHASE III January 1, 1990 through June 30, 1990.

Adopt revisions to the Subdivision Ordinance, the redrafted Zoning Ordinance, and the Zoning Map.

PHASE IV July 1, 1990 through June 30, 1991.

1: Request introduction of legislation to extend planning jurisdiction throughout the Town's watershed.

2: Initiate development of five year plans for all government departments.

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This Land Use Plan
Was Adopted by the Board of Commissioners
On September 20, 1989