Growth a major concern for Highlands hopefuls

By Jennifer Garlesky • Staff Writer

Six candidates are vying for three spots on the Highland’s Town Board of Commissioners.

Two incumbents — Alan Marsh and Dennis DeWolf — are seeking re-election. Newcomers John Dotson, Gary Drake, Larry Brannan and Larry Rogers are also running.

John Dotson

Candidate John Dotson, a 54-year-old real estate broker, decided to run for commissioner when the town’s zoning board reversed some ordinances and permitted development within city limits.

“The zoning changes made over the past several years have allowed development inside city limits,” Dotson said. “This type of development was prohibited in the past.”

Dotson cited cluster developments and homes built close to one another as a problem facing the town.

“Some of this type of development has already taken place,” he said. “I don’t think this is the way for the town to go. I am not against development, but I am against unwise development.”

“The town needs to have a cohesive direction,” Dotson continued. “We need to monitor development, because it will be a major issue in the years to come.”

Another issue Dotson expressed concern about is the building of a new town hall. The current board is taking a slow time considering the project, which is good, he said. But Dotson wants the taxpayers to be involved in the board’s decision if a new building is to be built.

“The taxpayers need to know how deep the water is going to be with the project’s cost,” he said.

Dotson has gained some experience with town government when he served on the Highlands Zoning Board and Appearance Commission.

Alan Marsh

Incumbent Alan Marsh is seeking his second term on the town board of commissioners. Marsh, elected four years ago, would like to continue to see progress made to Highland’s infrastructure.

“We’ve got a quite of bit of infrastructure that needs to be done,” said the 78-year-old retired insurance salesman.

Several town improvement projects such as a stormwater plan and the Harris Lake sewer project are at the top of Marsh’s list of priorities that the town needs to address.

Both projects’ estimated costs would be a sizeable amount of money, Marsh said. The stormwater plan is a $12 million project, and upgrading the sewer system will cost an estimated $2 million.

Marsh said he is dedicated to finding grant funding and alternative sources to pay for both.

Another concern of Marsh’s is the town’s density. If the population keeps increasing, Marsh is worried the town’s water supply will not be sufficient.

“We need to do something because we keep running out of room,” Marsh said.

Marsh is a member of the Highlands Historical Society and a board member of the Highland Land Trust. He also served on the Towns Land Use Plan Committee and the Planning Board before he was elected onto the town board.

Gary Drake

Candidate Gary E. Drake, 63, is running for his first time for town board this fall election. Drake moved to Highlands three years ago after living in Atlanta for 40 years where he worked as a manager at Delta Airlines.

Drake currently works in Highlands as an appraiser at Highlands Appraisal. He and his wife also own and operate Drake’s Diamond Gallery.

If elected to the town board, Drake plans to use his experience as a business owner.

“Town government is like a business,” he said.

The issue that sparked Drake to run for commissioner is the town board’s lack of support for the local business.

“We don’t do enough for our local businesses,’ Drake said.

Another concern of his is development in the town. “I am not against growth but it needs to be done right,” he said. “Highlands is an unique town. We need to keep the town the way it is now.”

Dennis DeWolf

Incumbent Dennis DeWolf is also seeking re-election for his second term on town board.

The 64 year-old architect said there is a lot of unfinished business in Highlands that he would like to continue to see through.

“We are behind and just trying to catch up,” he said about the town’s infrastructure. Installing and replacing new sewer lines for residents and a working storm water management system are two of the priorities that DeWolf feels the community needs addressed.

DeWolf has been an active volunteer in the Highlands community since 1973.

Candidates Larry Brannan and Larry Rogers did not return numerous phone calls seeking comment.

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