Business owners press council to allow Chocolate Flower Farm expansion

LANGLEY — Let the Chocolate Flower Farm expand and the rest of the city’s economy will grow with it, business owners told the city council this week.

The council is considering a new tenant for its vacant fire hall on Second Street, and just two of four proposals remain on the table for using the prime location.

The city has been seeking possible tenants since Fire District 3 got ready for its move to a new fire hall on Camano Avenue earlier this year. Langley received four proposals for recycling the old fire hall, including one from the South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District and another private proposal from Councilman Russell Sparkman.

The parks district, which had eyed the building as a possible place for recreational and education programs, has since withdrawn its interest. Another proposal for a Firehouse Centre of Fine Arts, suggested by Cary Jurriaans of Fall City Fine Art Studio, has also been abandoned.

That leaves Sparkman’s proposal for a multimedia arts center in the building, and the Chocolate Flower Farm’s suggestion to expand its retail shop into the fire hall.

Langley council members reviewed the two proposals at their meeting Monday. But before a visit to the fire hall at the end of the council meeting, local business owners told the council that Langley’s struggling economy needs the boost that the Chocolate Flower Farm would give.

“The Chocolate Flower Farm has the greatest potential to help the town’s businesses, as well as contribute to city sales tax revenue,” said Cynthia Tilkin, owner of In The Country. “The Chocolate Flower Farm has been a magical draw; tourists come to Langley from far and wide specifically to visit this unique business.”

Others painted a dismal picture of the current economic climate in town.

“We’re going to die,” said Mary-Elizabeth Rosenberg, co-owner of Mike’s Place on First Street.

“I’m the mother of optimism,” she said, but added the economy is grim in the Village by the Sea.

“We’re going to die,” Rosenberg repeated. “There are so many businesses that are going down.”

The Chocolate Flower Farm attracts people to town, she added.

“I think they should stay right in the middle of town. That’s my two cents, five cents, a dollar,” Rosenberg said. “I want them to stay right here.”

Marie Lincoln and Bill Schlicht, owners of the Chocolate Flower Farm, have said they could move into the fire hall in March. The fire hall would be used for expanding their retail shop, now located on First Street, when the current lease runs out. Part of the fire hall would also be used for production, wholesale and mail-order sales.

The other proposal that’s still under consideration is the idea offered by Sparkman, a councilman and the owner of Fusionspark Media. He has suggested turning the fire hall into an incubator for new businesses, one that’s managed by a nonprofit development corporation. The centerpiece would be the Langley Multimedia Arts and Technology Center, which would serve as a magnet for boutiques-sized multimedia conferences and workshops.

It would also be a support center for home-based businesses that need office space on an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis.

No decision on the future tenant for the fire hall was made Monday. The council will continue its review of the two proposals in the weeks ahead before making a decision.

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