Saanich is moving ahead with steps that could allow farm stands on private residential property, but not fast enough to save an existing roadside stand selling jam.
“We met with the director of bylaws and was told he does not have the power not to enforce a bylaw, so he has giving us 10 days to close,” said Katherine Little, owner of the Little Stand on Queensbury Avenue, on her Instagram page on June 14. “Which takes us to June 22 at midnight. Now we all know bylaw doesn’t work on Sunday so…”
Little made these comments after Saanich had reviewed her file. Under an earlier deadline, Little had until June 6 to comply with an order to shut down the stand after one of her neighbours filed a bylaw complaint.
This pending closure appears on the horizon after Saanich council asked staff to report back with “options and implications for considering bylaw changes” that would permit local produce and processed food stands to operate in Saanich on private property and immediately adjacent to boulevards, both inside and outside of the Urban Containment Boundary (UCB).
Council passed this motion after considerable back and forth and a proposed motion by Coun. Nathalie Chambers failed to get on the floor. It asked staff to report back with options and develop “guidelines that would permit” food and vegetable stands to operate on private property and immediately adjacent to boulevards inside the urban containment boundary in Saanich “provided they are selling local food and food products grown on site.”
Coun. Ned Taylor said he supported the intent and nature of Chambers’ motion, but also described it as “too narrow,” a sentiment shared by other councillors. Coun. Rebecca Mersereau said she agreed with Taylor in noting that the motion would encourage a more “holistic discussion” around the issue, pointing to various health issues around the private sale of processed foods. “We don’t want to presuppose the outcome of this review,” she said. “It’s not asking for a definitive conclusion,” added Coun. Karen Harper later.
The motion, however, comes too late for Little, whose stand was the initial catalyst of the review. It all started with a bylaw complaint that two months ago that focused on two elements: signage and the stand itself, with staff noting that Little’s home lacks zoning for individual business and retail sales. Saanich permits produce sales of items produced on rural zoned properties.
Little started the operation about a year ago, preserving surplus fruit growing on her property. Donations from friends and family helped Little expand her offerings as the stand started to turn into a neighbourhood attraction. The stand also helped Little to deal with personal issues.
Little worked for Canada Borders Services in Vancouver for 18 years before suffering injuries in the line of duty that left her physically unable to work and with post-traumatic stress disorder. “I have been mentally and physically retired,” she said earlier.
The stand, however, gave her a reason to keep going, and the response from the community to her offerings only encouraged her. She displayed this spirit when she appeared before Saanich council Monday night to speak in favour of Chambers’ initial motion in noting among other points that roadside stands help build community while providing access to locally grown food.