Article Comment 

Highlands, Cowbells Booze dispute continues


Tim Pratt



STARKVILLE -- With the future of the Highlands Plantation resort community still up in the air, Oktibbeha County Sheriff Dolph Bryan and developers of the $60 million development came a bit closer to an agreement Monday. 


The only resolution, however, came when the two sides agreed to meet again for negotiations. 


The sheriff in recent months has asked the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors to contact the State Tax Commission with a request to revoke the resort status of Highlands Plantation -- a 400-home community just east of Starkville, which also features Cowbells Sports Grill and a golf course that''s been closed since winter. 


Bryan and Highlands Plantation developers appeared to have reached a compromise in recent weeks, where the county would ask the Tax Commission to revoke resort status on homes in the development, but allow Cowbells to retain its resort status. Without resort status, Cowbells wouldn''t be allowed to serve alcohol because Highlands Plantation is in Oktibbeha County, where the sale and possession of beer is illegal outside Starkville city limits. Although liquor and wine are legal for possession in the county, they only are allowed to be purchased in the cities of Starkville, Sturgis and Maben -- and in Highlands Plantation because of its resort status. 




Another issue on the table 


But now a new issue has been thrown into the Highlands Plantation dispute, which caused the sheriff and the resort''s developers to leave the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday with nothing more than a tentative plan to meet again: Cowbells'' hours of operation. 


Citing concerns about drunken driving, Bryan wants Cowbells to stop serving alcohol the same time as establishments in Starkville, which is midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Starkville doesn''t allow Sunday alcohol sales. 


"That would be my ideal thing, if Cowbells closes the same time as (establishments in) the city," Bryan said. 


As it stands, Cowbells has the ability to serve alcohol 24 hours a day, seven days a week because of the resort status, although it only stays open until midnight Sunday through Wednesday and (until) 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. 


District 1 Supervisor Carl Clardy said he understood Bryan''s concerns about after-hours drinking at Cowbells and at homes in Highlands Plantation. 


"I think everybody in this room would understand that, if the city of Starkville closed at whatever time -- 1 (a.m.) or 1:30 -- and you all are still open out there until 3 (a.m.) or 3:30, they''re all going to leave here -- because I used to be one of those -- and they''re going to pile up out there (at Cowbells)," Clardy said. "Trouble after trouble after trouble." 




Willing to compromise ... some 


Although developers of Highlands Plantation were willing to see the resort status get revoked on homes in the community, they don''t appear willing to cut back hours at Cowbells to match businesses within city limits. 


"We''re already making concessions," said attorney John Brunini, who was representing Highlands Plantation at the supervisors meeting, and said the after-hours service gives Cowbells an economic advantage over businesses in the city. "We''re willing to go to the State Tax Commission with you to revoke resort status on homes in the community. We''re trying to reach an agreement that ... hopefully will allow us to remain a viable business." 


Bryan agreed to meet with county attorney Jackson Brown, Brunini and owners of Highlands Plantation to negotiate again.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment cb commented at 6/2/2009 1:54:00 PM:

Looks like the Sheriff has already held up another resort on highway 25 south of 12. Who wants to develop in Oktibeha County if they plan on giving and taking resort status based on red neck laws!


Article Comment Leeroy Jenkins commented at 6/2/2009 2:01:00 PM:

Nobody wants to move to Oktibbeha county anyway. If it weren't for MSU it would be another hole in the ground.


Article Comment QS commented at 6/2/2009 6:51:00 PM:

POLITICS are at it AGAIN! 'nuff said!


Article Comment AC commented at 6/4/2009 9:22:00 AM:

I was born here in Starkville and at times I have lived in both the city of Starkville and out in the county. Therefore, I feel I can speek about the issue of alcohol and wine: I wish they would outlaw ALL of these drinks. I wish all the cities in Oktibbeha would ban the sale of alcohol, wind and BEER.
All I have ever seen come from the sale of these items is DEATH, injuries and a burden on law enforcement officials. But the amount of taxes that is received from the sale of these drinks in NO way offset the real cost of having them available.
The cost of one lost life can NEVER be repaid by any amount of taxes collected.
There would also be a lot more MSU students alive to enjoy their education if it were not for the availability of these legal drugs.
I had rather be a LIVE red neck than a dead one.


Article Comment JA commented at 6/4/2009 10:50:00 AM:

AC. if you have lived in Okt. County all your life you must be too young to remember when they all were illegal and the deaths piled up on Hwy. 82 with kids driving to the Crossroads and Columbus. That highway was a bloodbath. Outlawing all alcohol is stupid, head-in-the-sand reasoning.


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