Saanich council will discuss the possibility of allowing temporary roadside stands during the COVID-19 pandemic at its meeting next Monday, while the clock ticks for one woman’s flower stand.
Retail stands in the municipality’s urban containment area are prohibited by Saanich bylaws.
Coun. Nathalie Chambers has drafted a report that would ask staff to look at temporarily allowing roadside stands that sell homegrown fruits, flowers, vegetables and crafts on private property as an emergency measure during the pandemic.
If council agrees, Saanich staff will be asked to provide council with options to temporarily allow roadside stands.
The discussion comes after Colleen O’Farrell, owner of Foxgloves Farms, was given 30 days by Saanich bylaw officers to close the flower stand in her front yard, where she has been selling arrangements since the COVID-19 crisis hit.
O’Farrell has operated her business out of her Gorge-area home for the last decade. She received a shipment of flowers for an event that was cancelled because of the pandemic and didn’t want the flowers to immediately end up in the compost, so she opened the stand temporarily to give away arrangements by donation. She posted to Facebook to let people know about the offer.
She hadn’t planned to keep the stand long-term, but when arrangements flew off the shelves in a day, O’Farrell decided to keep stocking it.
“I thought I was closing down the business, but from the Facebook post, I got so much community support. People were asking if they could come back for more,” O’Farrell said.
Now she finds herself fighting municipal bylaws to keep it open.
While O’Farrell will continue to fill online and phone orders, she said the stand has helped foster a sense of community during a time of increased isolation.
“It really has created a wonderful little community hub,” she said.
At a council meeting last Monday, Chambers introduced a notice of motion to address the topic at next week’s meeting.
The public would normally have a chance to provide input during the council meeting, but with councillors meeting online during the pandemic, that’s not an option.
Instead, residents are invited to share their thoughts on temporary roadside stands by email, either by contacting an individual councillor or writing to council’s general inbox.
Mayor Fred Haynes said he is hearing a lot of support from residents and some concerns about the potential for increased traffic or an increase in strangers coming to neighbourhoods.
He said the issue needs to be addressed carefully, because if the bylaw is amended for one person, it needs to be amended for everyone.
“It’s one lady with a stand with flowers. If that was the end of it, that’s easy for us to do, compared to dealing with every house in Saanich,” he said. “The question would be what would be the uptake on this if it was offered universally.”