Saanich residents Colleen O’Farrell (left) and Katherine Little (right) are fighting for the right to operate farm stands from their front yards. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Saanich looks at relaxing farm stand ban

Flower stand operator given 45-day extension on shut-down notice

Saanich will peruse options to allow for roadside sales.

During a virtual meeting on May 4, council voted unanimously that municipal staff look at options for temporarily relaxing the roadside farm stand bylaw to allow the sale of produce, flowers and homemade goods within the Urban Containment Boundary during the pandemic.

Coun. Nathalie Chambers made the motion that asked for a report by May 11, but was amended to May 25.

READ ALSO: Saanich talks temporary allowance for roadside farm stands

“I am pleased we are looking at ‘made in Saanich’ solutions for economic recovery and leaning on our agricultural roots,” Chambers, said after the meeting, adding that the region is home to fertile lands stewarded by local First Nations long before Saanich was established. Chambers feels “the District is ideally poised” to face the economic crisis through sustainable agriculture.

Mayor Fred Haynes emphasized that the May 4 decision does not change the bylaw. The vote was to direct staff to analyze how the bylaw could be relaxed or changed. He said changing a bylaw requires public input and Saanich staff are still working on a way to have resident input at public hearings during the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Support blooms as Saanich flower stand operator takes on bylaw

Two Saanich residents and farm stand operators have been at the forefront of the push for a review of the bylaw banning farm stands on private property. Katherine Little has been fighting for her jam stand since 2018. Local grocery stores offered to sell her jam after she was forced to shut down the stand in June 2019. While she’s grateful her jam is still being sold, Little is passionate about her roadside stand. Despite council not officially permitting farm stands on Monday night, Little reopened her stand at 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

Colleen O’Farrell’s battle began more recently. The florist opened a flower cart outside her home on Heath Drive in mid-March after her business was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers began cancelling orders and flowers piled up in O’Farrell’s shop. In an effort to repurpose the blooms and make up for missed income, she opened the farm stand.

READ ALSO: Saanich jam stand at the centre of controversy prepares to close

On April 22, Saanich gave O’Farrell 30 days’ notice to shut down. During the May 4 meeting, council gave O’Farrell’s stand a 45-day extension while council decides how to proceed.

Haynes said it was suggested Saanich simply implement Victoria’s bylaw which permits roadside stands selling goods made or grown on the property. However, as Little and O’Farrell’s stands sell goods that aren’t all grown on their properties, they still wouldn’t be permitted to operate. Saanich staff and council will examine the situation “carefully and compassionately” before making a decision, Haynes said.

A full review of Saanich’s farm stand bylaw is also expected before council in the next month.


@devonscarlett
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devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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