At a meeting last Tuesday, councillors unanimously supported the proposal, issuing a planning permit for the 16-hectare site in Old Healesville Road.
Owner-operators Leanne and Ian Neeland's chocolate farm will manufacture chocolates using fruit to be grown on site, with retail and tourism aspects.
The tourism development
has the potential to inject $31million into the region, they say.
The land lies in the heart of the valley's green wedge zone.
Development in the area must meet strict rules on how the land is used and preserved.
Although council planning officers originally recommended the development be rejected due to these laws, Cr Jeanette McRae put forward an alternate motion to grant the permit.
The motion included stronger local agricultural links, improvements to the creek area on the property, a reduction in the size of the cafe, and opening hours restrictions.
Cr McRae said the difference between this proposal and others in green wedge zones was the business's strong link to local agricultural products.
"You've got a proposal addressed by the applicant in a holistic way," she said.
"They are looking at improvements around the wetland and creek, economic outcomes value-adding to product and a product of
difference, which will provide opportunities for people to stop off in Yarra Glen.
"There will be flow on economic benefits as well as provide employment opportunities."
Council's planning and building director Andrew Paxton said every application decision could set a precedent or heighten an expectation within the community.
"This includes decisions by the council, by VCAT [Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal] or by the minister.
"However, each application is assessed against the planning scheme of the day," he said.
Mrs Neeland said it was exciting news and a great relief. "We put everything on the line. It has been a long haul. It was a fantastic result."
She said the chocolaterie would create at least 40 jobs.
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Source and Photo: Maroondah Weekly