Colleen O’Farrell never expected her flower stand to lead to a battle with Saanich council and a storm of media attention.
The florist has operated Foxglove Flowers for several years but the COVID-19 pandemic has led to many celebrations that typically include flowers being cancelled. In an effort to repurpose her flowers, she opened a farm cart in her front yard in mid-March.
However, Saanich bylaws don’t permit roadside farm carts in the Urban Containment Boundary (UCB) and on April 22, bylaw officers stopped by to give O’Farrell 30 days to shut down her stand.
For O’Farrell – a self-proclaimed “behind the scenes person,” – going up against the municipality has been “an intense lesson in local politics.”
For O’Farrell, the stand has fostered a sense of community in her neighbourhood and beyond – building new friendships and stronger connections.
“I didn’t realize this was what I needed,” she said.
Most of council either reached out or stopped by to see O’Farrell’s stand for themselves before the issue came to council on May 4 when staff were directed look at options for temporarily allowing farm stands. O’Farrell was also given a 45-day extension.
While she was grateful for the extension and that council agreed to look at temporarily allowing farm stands O’Farrell said she won’t back down until the bylaw is changed– not just for herself, but for everyone whose business has been impacted by the pandemic and would like the option to open a farm stand.
“To be able to keep on keeping on, that’s amazing,” O’Farrell said, “but the fight isn’t over – this bylaw needs to change.”
On May 25, Saanich council will review a staff report recommending that council direct staff to pause enforcement of the bylaw banning farm stands in the UCB until the bylaw can be amended to allow for a Temporary Use Permit process.
For now, O’Farrell’s stand at 2825 Heath Dr. remains open.