Sunlight on Willow
A RUM distillery at Willow Court and an expansion of the Agrarian Kitchen will be negotiated between developers and the Derwent Valley Council over the next two months.
The two proposals for the Willow Court site were formally noted by councillors at last week’s council meeting and general manager Greg Winton was asked to enter into negotiations and report back within 60 days.
At the same meeting, a motion to defer consideration of expressions of interest in the use of council-owned buildings at Willow Court failed to win support.
The meeting heard that the Agrarian Kitchen proposes to move its Lachlan cooking school to Willow Court to be co-located with its successful restaurant there, and that Crusader Homes would like to establish a rum distillery on the historic site in central New Norfolk.
Deputy mayor Ben Shaw said the current council had decided nearly four years ago that something substantial had to be done to activate Willow Court after years of neglect.
“Rodney Dunn [of the Agrarian Kitchen] came along and made a proposal to the council.
“It’s one of the best things that has happened to that site and to this community in a very long time,” Cr Shaw said.
“It has put us on the map in terms of food and in terms of a destination,” he said.
Cr Shaw said the council had advertised the site to the world for expressions of interest and that had led to the proposals before the council.
Cr Julie Triffett said Willow Court was a site with “dark experiences, dark thoughts and dark treatment” and it was time to open it up and let in the sun.
Cr James Graham said he understood concerns about future uses of the former hospital site but he was certain that the heritage would be respected.
Earlier, Cr Anne Salt proposed a 120-day moratorium on expressions of interest for Willow Court; development of a single Conservation Management Plan to consolidate the multiple individual CMPs; and waiving the $110 site opening fee for tours provided by the Friends of Willow Court.
Cr Salt said the council had accepted an expression of interest from the Friends of Willow Court and the group needed time to develop a detailed plan.
Cr Graham said he understood the intent of the moratorium proposal but not the 120-day span, while Cr Shaw said he saw it as a roadblock for other interested parties.
Cr Salt challenged the mayor to read out a further expression of interest lodged the day before the meeting.
Mayor Evans said this latest submission, from a community arts group, would be considered in due course.
When put to the vote, Cr Salt’s three motions were unsuccessful, voted down 5-1.