Highlands Council: What Do We Do? The Year in Review

Highlands Council staff

In January, we launched a community-wide survey and with record results. You told us land development and traffic were your top concerns. You said you felt safe but wished you knew your neighbors better. You did not feel IssaquahHighlands.com was a valued community resource.  We went to work.

Following the City’s work in Land Development

Our staff spent many hours attending city council and committee meetings; following the city’s work as they:

  • untangled the Issaquah Highlands Development Agreement that terminates this month,
  • negotiated the Trade in Development Rights (TDRs) for additional housing in Polygon’s Westridge neighborhood development,
  • continued to work with Shelter Holdings on the future of the L-shaped parcel that runs along 9th Avenue and Discovery Drive, across from Grand Ridge Plaza, and
  • debated the best use of the King County Island parcel next to West Highlands Park and the Issaquah School Districts desire to locate a second elementary school that would serve our community on that parcel

Highlands Council was excited to break the news about CitySurf and participated in the ground-breaking ceremony for the improvements to Central Park’s Pad 1. We also encouraged community participation in the City’s Parks & Recreation Department’s efforts to hear from you about new park amenities via a community meeting at Grand Ridge Elementary and online surveys – we may get that splash park yet!

We launched a Land Development webpage at IssaquahHighlands.com to provide a one-stop spot for you to find the answers to growth in our community. We continue to follow land development news and look forward to presenting our annual comprehensive report in the February 2018 issue of this publication.

Traffic

Highlands Council assembled a comprehensive Transportation Options issue of Connections in April with a companion webpage at IssaquahHighlands.com to make finding solutions to beating traffic easy for the people who live here. That transportation initiative was so impressive to the City of Issaquah and King County that I was invited to participate in a WSDOT Transportation Workshop, representing Issaquah Highlands, last July.

In July, Highlands Council hosted City Leaders for a community meeting to address resident concerns about traffic safety in IH. Since that July meeting Highlands Council, together with the IHCA, has attended multiple collaborative planning meetings with the City of Issaquah and are excited to launch an awareness campaign next month!

Safety

While the survey results from January said you felt safe in our community those feelings were shaken by two armed-robberies of local businesses.  Highlands Council immediately partnered with the Issaquah Police Department (IPD) and hosted a Town Hall-style meeting at Blakely Hall to discuss stakeholder concerns. Top tips included:

  • Locking our doors
  • Turn on porch lights at night
  • Keeping valuables out of site in our vehicles
  • Consider camera security systems
  • And most importantly, encouraged us “If we see something, SAY SOMETHING,” by calling the IPD’s non-emergency line (425-837-3200)

The IPD was back at Blakely Hall in June with a Paws on Patrol training, educating dog owners on how to be extra eyes for law enforcement when they are walking their pets.

Highlands Council is committed to emergency preparedness. This year I attended Red Cross Shelter and Mass Care training to better support our community in the event of a disaster. Our own CERT Team 9 met regularly throughout the year, practiced skills and recruited a record number of neighbors to become volunteer Citizen Emergency Response Team certified this fall.

IssaquahHighlands.com as a Community Resource

Highlands Council assembled resident focus groups and held multiple meetings to gather feedback regarding improving the user experience on our community website. We re-designed:

  • The home page – moving the most popular SEARCH topics to the main page
  • Improved the IHCA page – making it easier to locate the documents you need
  • Added a Real Estate Guide to the Doing Business drop down menu – providing everything you need to know about buying and selling in IH in one convenient location.

We will continue to make website improvements in 2018, including an initiative to convert our governing documents from pdfs to webpages, making specific word searches on the website much more fruitful.

Connecting as Neighbors

This year Nina and I participated in a City of Issaquah Neighborhood Summit to share connecting ideas with other community leaders around greater Issaquah. Issaquah Highlands clearly leads the city in community building efforts because we have Highlands Council.

  • Residents started three new clubs started in 2017: Entrepreneur Club, Women in STEM, and the Ladies Lunch Bunch.
  • Our multicultural clubs hosted four major celebrations at Blakely Hall
  • The Highlands Youth (HY) Advisory Board also hosted four events for teens and this month’s Parents Night Out service project.
  • Our community gardeners supported a local girl scout troop’s effort to collect fresh produce for the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank through the Grow A Row Over 300lbs of produce, including 700 tomatillos, were harvested!
  • We all embraced the happily-ever-after spirit of Once Upon a Highlands Day at the end of the summer festival with over 5,000 in attendance!
  • In September our community began enjoying monthly visits from the King County Library-2-Go book mobile at Blakely Hall (back December 5th!).
  • We welcomed many new neighbors during two New Resident Orientation Receptions.
  • And we kept our community civically and economically engaged by hosting a series of local campaign forums at Blakely Hall, the annual Veteran’s Day ceremony on November 10th and the Shop Local Saturday Holiday Bazaar on November 25th.

Highlands Council is not the HOA; perhaps you know this already. Highlands Council runs Blakely Hall, oversees social programming and official communications for Issaquah Highlands; but what does that look like exactly? I am proud to share this recap of our work in 2017, guided by your feedback and requests, and provide a sneak peek at what we are already planning in 2018. Happy Holidays!

Photo: Happy Holidays from Highlands Council, from left to right: Nina, Brianna, Vicki, Michele, Julie & Christy.