By Stefanie Donahue
Keen on reserving space for the right project, Blaine City Council declined a $1.6 million offer from Chewters Chocolates to purchase 7 acres of the Gateway Parcel bordering H Street and recommended the company propose an alternative plan on 5 acres.
Chewters Chocolates Inc. and its affiliate ChocXO Chocolatier LLC presented a letter of intent to the city in November. Blaine City Council voted unanimously to table consideration of the contract, citing a need for more information.
The company, which operates out of locations in Irvine, California and Delta, B.C., proposed to relocate its 10,000-square-foot Irvine facility to Blaine.
CEO Richard Foley and VP of manufacturing Wade Pugh said they would invest a total of $15.6 million to purchase the land, construct a manufacturing facility and install machinery on a portion of it, leaving room for future expansion.
The company intended to incorporate a retail and tourism component, similar to the Tillamook Creamery in Oregon.
Despite having enthusiasm for the proposal, Blaine City Council voted 4–0 on January 14 to reject the offer.
City councilmembers are instead recommending Chewters Chocolates propose an alternative plan that includes a retail and tourism component on 5 acres at the south end of the original offer, allowing the city to retain 2 acres at the north end.
“Chewters proposal would develop a chocolate factory, visitor center and retail outlet,” read a report by city manager Michael Jones. “However, approximately half the site would remain undeveloped for an unspecified period of time,” which concerned city councilmembers from the start.
Ultimately, the report states that the city wants a project that provides a mix of services, adds a new service or amenity, offers well-paying jobs, creates substantial sales tax revenue and/or enhances the H Street commercial and state route 543 corridors.
“While these attributes are unlikely to exist in any one project, any potential sale is evaluated based on these and similar goals,” read Jones’ report.
On Monday, Jones told Blaine City Council that while the details are vague, Family Care Network is interested in opening a healthcare facility in Blaine and the north end of the Gateway Parcel is an ideal location.
“Medical services and jobs are both very important to the quality of life in Blaine, just like in any city,” Jones said in an email. “We are very positive about Chewters and see their industrial tourism concept as an exciting addition to Blaine. At the same time, we are thrilled at the prospect of
expanding the health care options in the community.”
An estimated 3,000 local patients are at risk of losing medical care if Bay Medical Clinic in Blaine closes on March 31. Currently, Premera Blue Cross is in the process of helping recruit new providers at the location.
“Our current facility near Birch Bay is at capacity, yet the communities we serve continue to grow,” said Family Care Network spokesperson Michele Anderson. “We have been exploring options in the north part of the county for an easily accessible location where we can provide a full spectrum of primary care services to our current and future patients.”