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Highland residents share differing opinions as city council considers exemption to alcohol ban

Posted at 9:55 PM, Oct 17, 2023

HIGHLAND, Utah — Alcohol continues to be the talk of the town in a dry city in Utah County. Residents are calling it a “community war started by a developer.”

Since the city was founded decades ago, in Highland, you can’t buy alcohol at the store or at a restaurant.

“It’s been a controversy for a decade one way or the other,” said Paul Merrott.

Company MNG Development applied for a change to the city code for its Highland Mains development project.

At the empty lot near Timpanogos Highway and North Alpine Highway, developers hope to build a new shopping center with a play area, stores, and many restaurants.

“It’s a little bit tricky because would we prefer to have alcohol sold? No,” said Jessica Black. “But I like that it’s a draw for bigger types of restaurants.”

If approved, restaurants in that specific commercial area will be allowed to serve alcohol. According to the city, the council could also consider allowing alcohol sales city-wide.

“I don’t necessarily want alcohol sold everywhere. That’s something that’s sort of special about Highland. It’s a hard choice to make,” said Black.

Right now, a wall blocks off the western border of the development lot.

Merrott lives near that wall and does not care whether or not customers can order a beer near his home. He’s more concerned about the traffic brought in by the development.

“That’s a blessing and a curse for here. It’s good for tax dollars but it’s a curse for the neighbors,” he said.

“[Highland is] not so much of a small community anymore, and Utah’s growing as is,” said Stephanie Salomon, who used to live in Highland. "I feel like it would just make more sense to allow it and make people make that decision for themselves."

The Alpine Country Club does serve alcohol, but that’s only because the club existed before Highland was incorporated as a city. The country club’s alcohol sales were grandfathered in.

The commercial zone near Macey’s technically “does not expressly prohibit alcohol sales.” However, the council “historically put limitations on individual businesses” to not allow it.

At Tuesday night’s city council meeting, every public comment speaker had something to say about alcohol.

“It really upsets me that this whole community war was started by a developer,” said one of the speakers.

The city council won’t make any decisions until January, but Oct. 20 is the deadline for the survey. As of Tuesday night, 62% of Highland homes have sent in their opinion.