Oktibbeha sheriff says he’s open to talks on Highlands Plantation’s resort status

May 11, 2009

Tim Pratt -


STARKVILLE -- Oktibbeha County Sheriff Dolph Bryan says he is willing to talk with representatives from the Highlands Plantation resort community about a new proposal to limit excessive drinking among residents, but he wants to hear more about the plan before he makes a decision. 


Bryan has said in the past, and reiterated this week, his main concern at Highlands Plantation has been the excessive partying and drinking at homes in the community as opposed to Cowbells Sports Grill, which is located on the property. 


When asked if he would support the new resolution, which would make the possession of beer illegal at Highlands Plantation homes but still allow Cowbells to sell it, Bryan said he wants to learn more about the proposal. 


"I would be glad to listen to what (Highlands Plantation representatives and county supervisors) have to say, but since I didn''t hear what they had to say and wasn''t at the supervisors meeting, my position is exactly as it was," Bryan said. "If we could get that (revocation of resort status on homes, but not Cowbells) done without going to court and having a full-blown court battle, I might be amenable to that." 


Highlands Plantation is located in Oktibbeha County, where the possession and sale of beer outside of Starkville city limits is illegal. Because Highlands Plantation has resort status, however, people who live there can possess beer and Cowbells can sell it. 


Without resort status, the possession and sale of beer would be illegal in Highlands Plantation. Residents would still be allowed to possess liquor and wine, but not beer. And Cowbells wouldn''t be allowed to sell any alcohol. 


Upon Bryan''s request, the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors last month voted to ask the State Tax Commission to revoke the resort status of the entire Highlands Plantation community. But the board on Monday agreed to hold off on its request to the state after an attorney representing Highlands Plantation presented a new proposal, which would revoke the resort status on the 300-plus homes in the community, but allow Cowbells to maintain its resort status. 


The board is now waiting until after it consults with Bryan about the new proposal before it makes a request to the State Tax Commission. 


"Until (Bryan) is satisfied, I''m not satisfied," District 1 Supervisor Carl Clardy said Thursday afternoon. 




Good for homeowners 


Jay Bradley, president of the Highlands Plantation Home Owner''s Association and co-owner of Cowbells, said he''s not worried a revocation of resort status on homes might cause residents to move out. 


"I think it will probably help the rentals," Bradley said. "It would be a cleaner place. It would be nicer. The people it really would affect are probably people I wouldn''t want living here anyway." 


"The sheriff''s not going to go in and get a six-pack (of beer) out of your fridge," he added. "It''s just if the partying gets out of hand. I think this is actually good for the Home Owner''s Association because now (the Sheriff''s Department) has the power to go in and do what they have they have to do if people get too out of hand." 


Residents of Highlands Plantation this week had mixed feelings on the new proposal. Many want the community to stay the way it is; others were indifferent, saying an ordinance isn''t going to stop people from drinking beer in their own homes. 


Still others thought resort status should be revoked on Cowbells if is revoked on homes in the community. 


Lon Burt, 20, a Mississippi State University student from Meridian, lives in Highlands Plantation and wants to see the entire community maintain its resort status. But if homes lose resort status, he also believes it should happen to Cowbells. 


"I don''t think that''s too fair," Burt said of the new proposal. "If Cowbells is going to be resort status, the whole neighborhood might as well be, in my opinion." 


Matt Perkins, John Woodard and David Randle, all formerly of Columbus, now live in Highlands Plantation and had mixed feelings about the situation, though the group would prefer to see the entire community remain a resort. 


When asked their opinion of the new resolution, which would make beer illegal outside of Cowbells, the group considered the financial aspect of the situation. 


"They''re just trying to get a monopoly on the drinking out here," Perkins said of Cowbells. 


"It isn''t going to work," Woodard said. "It wouldn''t change a thing. People are going to drink out here (at their homes) no matter what." 


Supervisors are expected to discuss the issue at their next meeting, scheduled for May 27 at 10 a.m. in the Oktibbeha County Courthouse.