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The Town of Highlands prides itself on a unique, high quality business community. New businesses are encouraged to become good neighbors, to maintain an attractive appearance, and to avail themselves of the many social and cultural opportunities in the community.

This brochure is intended to provide brief information about licenses, utilities, and zoning regulations affecting new businesses in Highlands.

For more information, please call or visit

The Town Office
North Fourth Street
828.526.2118 or 526-5266
Working hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00am 4:30pm.

If you have any further questions about the regulations referred to in this brochure, please ask.

The Town of Highlands enforces a Unified Development Ordinance which regulates commercial activities, including the displaying of signs (see below). Copies of both the Zoning Ordinance and the Zoning Map are available at the Town Office. New businesses must obtain a Zoning Certificate (or certification on the utility contract that the use is a permitted one) from the Zoning Administrator. New businesses locating in an existing building formerly occupied by a similar type of business should generally not encounter a zoning problem. But change to a new use in a building may affect a new business in many ways. The proposed use may not be permitted in the zoning district, or may be restricted by other requirements.

Changing a building to a "higher intensity" use (such as office to retail, or retail to restaurant) may necessitate additional parking, public rest rooms, or handicapped accessibility. It may also result in an additional sewer connection fee. Remodeling beyond ordinary leaseholder improvements (such as new carpet or shelves) may require both a Zoning Certificate and a Building Permit. Change in ownership in a restaurant may require an upgrade of kitchen equipment by the Macon County Health Department.

Some uses, including restaurants in existing buildings, as well as all new commercial construction are permitted only upon issuance of a Special Use Permit by the Zoning Board, in addition to a Zoning Certificate and Building Permit. In addition, plans for new buildings are first required to be reviewed by the Appearance Commission.

For more information on Zoning Certificates see Zoning Certificates & Building Permits in the Town of Highlands.

For more information on construction in general and Special Use Permits, see Town of Highlands | Forms & Applications.

No sign may be displayed in Highlands without the issuance of a Sign Permit. The size, height, and location of signs are regulated by the Zoning Ordinance, and depend on the zoning district in which the business is located. While awnings are allowed without a permit, letters on awnings are regulated as signs, and many types of signs such as flags, neon signs, and certain types of illuminated signs are prohibited entirely.

Temporary signs on the insides of windows (except SALE signs) are generally exempt if they do not exceed 20% of the area of a window. Temporary signs for special sales or initial openings are permitted, but only for limited periods and subject to issuance of a Temporary Sign Permit and the payment of a permit fee.

New businesses are urged to complete a Sign Permit application before their signs are made, in order to avoid costly mistakes.

Permit, Temporary and Real Estate sign permits can be found at Town of Highlands | Forms & Applications.

Fees associated with the usage of signs in the Town of Highlands can be found under the Land Use section of the Town of Highlands | Fees Schedule page.

Business Licenses
A business license is required for only businesses selling/serving alcohol or providing tax services.  For more information, please visit the Fees Schedule page.

Licenses are issued for one year, from May 1 to April 30th. New businesses should contact the Department of Revenue in the County Courthouse in Franklin for State business requirements.

The Town provides electric, water, and garbage service, plus sewer service for most of the downtown business district. New businesses are required to sign a contract for utility service, and new rental accounts are required to post a $300.00 deposit. Rates are available at the Town Office. Minimum charges are in effect throughout the year, even if there is no usage. Many commercial businesses are also equipped with "demand" electric meters, which record peak power demand in any given month over a period of time; utility bills may thus reflect this charge during winter months even if little or no power is used. Utilities are billed in monthly cycles, and are due within 21 days of the billing date; otherwise, late penalties are automatically applied.

For businesses in new buildings, water and sewer connection fees are also required. For some uses, such as restaurants and motels, these fees may be substantial.

Garbage is generally collected every day in the business district. Businesses should inquire where to place their garbage for pickup when they sign up for utility service. For information on recycling and cardboard collection, contact the Town Office.

Additional Information
Highlands is governed by a Mayor and Board of Commissioners, which meets on the third Thursday each month at the Community Building located at 71 Poplar St, Highlands, NC 28741. All meetings are open to the public, and the meeting agenda is posted here as well as in the lobby of the Town Office.

Public rest rooms are located in Kelsey Hutchinson Founders Park on Pine Street. Owners of businesses and their employees are prohibited from Parking in public parking places in certain areas of the Town.

For Further Information

Town of Highlands |  828.526.2118

Fax | 828.526.2595

Updated January 18, 2008