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Why (and How) Was the Issaquah Highlands Community Fund Created?

Issaquah Highlands has a complex organizational structure. While the Issaquah Highlands Community Association (IHCA) is the traditional homeowners association, there are three other separate but intertwined organizations that are unique to the design of our master-planned community – Highlands Council, Highlands Fiber Network, and now, the Issaquah Highlands Community Fund.

Highlands Council

Highlands CouncilIn May 2003, Port Blakely Companies founded the Covenant for Community to establish Highlands Council with a vision to sustain and enhance the vision of Issaquah Highlands and create a legacy of community for generations. Highlands Council complements the work of the IHCA by enhancing the quality of life throughout the Issaquah Highlands community and beyond. Highlands Council is authorized to undertake numerous activities and services such as community-wide facilities (Blakely Hall), Highlands Fiber Network, educational programs, volunteer activities, social programs, environment programs, a youth board, and more. All of this could not be accomplished under the IHCA because the IHCA is limited to concerns and issues affecting homeowners and common areas. The scope of Highlands Council is much broader and affects multi-family and commercial areas as well as homeowners.

Highlands Council’s purpose is to develop a vibrant and caring community committed to service, diversity, and well-being; and encompass collaboration, community relations, diversity, and greater community involvement. More than events and programs, the founder’s vision for Highlands Council includes:

  • Control in planning the future of Issaquah Highlands
  • Wanting to create something special
  • A friendly and supportive community
  • Extreme pride in the success of the community
  • Commitment to community lifestyle
  • Opportunities to enhance community and lifestyle
  • Creating a long-lasting legacy
  • Neighborhood companions and partnership
  • Empowerment as residents of the city of Issaquah
  • Honoring trust and a sense of responsibility

Source: Issaquah Highlands Connections February 2004

Highlands Fiber Network

Highlands Fiber Network (HFN)In September 1997, Port Blakely published the first community newsletter, “The Highlands Review,” which touted a new community with a new vision, including planned technology that was “the wave of the future…speedy internet service to homes, businesses, and schools.” The plan included laying a fiber network that would make telecommuting easy and provide lasting benefits.

As the community was built out, Port Blakely formed a small management company called Community Fiber Network to operate the fiber network, anticipating the IHCA would eventually absorb the network as an included community amenity. In January 2003, the Technology Task Force was created and set out to amend the IHCA Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). According to the January 2003 issue of Connections, this effort required the approval of 67% of homeowners after an informational meeting held on January 15, 2003. The April 2003 issue of Connections announced the amendment to the IHCA governing documents did not pass, primarily due to lack of voter turnout, and Port Blakely decided to add the fiber network to the Highlands Council Covenant for Community to ensure the amenity would remain community-owned.

Port Blakely, as the founder of Highlands Council, created Chapter 6 of the Covenant for Community that required all homeowners to subscribe to the minimum service package offered by Highlands Fiber Network (HFN). This subscription is separate from other services provided by the IHCA. According to the April 2004 issue of Connections, the required subscription enables the funding of the fiber system throughout Issaquah Highlands.

In 2013, Port Blakely began to transition its governing powers to the Highlands Council Board of Trustees, including an offer to purchase HFN from Port Blakely. A task force of homeowners was established to negotiate the purchase of the network. By the end of 2013, Port Blakely provided the credit needed for the community to purchase HFN, and Highlands Council appointed a board of directors. Today, HFN is community-owned and managed by a volunteer board of homeowners in partnership with a contracted network provider. HFN is self-governing, and Highlands Council is the sole member. The HFN board provides regular updates to the Highlands Council trustees.

Founder’s Vision for a Foundation

2004 IH Organizational Structure chart

Port Blakey created an Issaquah Highlands organizational chart that included a “Highlands Foundation,” circa 2004.

The February 2004 issue of Connections included an insert titled “Community of Issaquah Highlands Organizational Structure.” In this table-formatted document, the IHCA, Highlands Council, and a future “Highlands Foundation” were identified, including each organization’s purpose, responsibilities, and funding sources. This document outlined the foundation would be a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and the Highlands Council Board of Trustees would appoint the board of directors for the foundation. The document defined the purpose of the foundation as supporting and enhancing educational, environmental, and cultural opportunities consistent with the goals of Highlands Council. Port Blakely noted the foundation would be responsible for fundraising via grants, scholarships, and charitable donations, including trusts and endowments.

Establishing the Issaquah Highlands Community Fund

In 2013, the homeowner-comprised HFN Task Force determined not only could the Issaquah Highlands community afford to purchase and manage the fiber network but HFN – once the purchase loan was repaid to Port Blakely – would generate positive revenues above maintaining reserves and general operating costs that could be reinvested into the community. HFN anticipates being debt-free in 2022-2023.

Understanding Port Blakely’s vision for a charitable foundation and the anticipated revenue from HFN, the Highlands Council Board of Trustees voted in September 2019 to form the Issaquah Highlands Community Fund (IHCF). In December 2020, the foundation received federal 501(c)3 nonprofit status. Highlands Council is the sole member of IHCF, and the foundation is managed by a board of directors that includes representation from Highlands Council, Highlands Fiber Network, and other members of the community.

In 2021, the IHCF Board of Directors will draft the foundation’s mission and vision statement and establish a three-year strategic plan in anticipation of HFN’s first financial contribution to the foundation. With a strategic plan in place, the directors will also work with the community to identify initiatives beneficial to Issaquah Highlands that can be funded by grants and other charitable gifts. The creation of the IHCF opens the next chapter of the history of Issaquah Highlands, bringing more good works to the people who live here.

Christy Garrard is the executive director of Highlands Council and a Dahlia Park resident. 

This digital-only article is part of a series from the Spring 2021 issue of Connections. Read the full “Rooted in Community” feature story in Spring 2021 Connections >> 

Learn more about your Issaquah Highlands organizations and speak with staff and volunteers at our upcoming Resident Information Night on April 13, 2021! Pre-register online here >>