Closing of jam stand on hold; councillor wants farm stands allowed

A Saanich woman’s jam stand has received a temporary reprieve from the District of Saanich.

Katherine Little is fighting an order that she remove the blue-and-white stand from the end of her Queensbury Avenue driveway by Thursday, since it contravenes rules against retail sales in residential neighbourhoods, and raises traffic concerns.

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Little said the stand, where she sells jam and salsa made from produce grown in her garden, brings a sense of community to her Maplewood neighbourhood, adjacent to Cedar Hill Golf Course. She’s calling on Saanich to change its bylaws to allow roadside food stalls.

On Monday, Little met with Brent Reems, Saanich’s director of building, bylaw, licensing and legal services, who said the stand can remain until he completes a thorough review of the file. Little presented him with a binder full of hundreds of messages of support from people who want to see the jam stand remain.

“I was glad to be heard,” said Little, who suggested that Saanich follow the lead of the City of Victoria, which permits small-scale commercial urban food production and the sale of those products on residential properties.

In an email, Reems said: “Saanich is committed to continuing positive and respectful dialogue with the owners of the Little Stand.”

Reems said while the zoning bylaw has not changed, he will review the file “to ensure that our bylaw enforcement policy and processes were followed appropriately.”

Little also met with Saanich Coun. Nathalie Chambers, an advocate of local farming, to talk about a bylaw change. That left Little feeling optimistic, but she knows changing rules can be a long and arduous process.

“If my little stand has to create the change that Saanich needs, that’s a good thing for the long term,” said Little, adding that if that means she has to shut down her stand until new rules are passed, “so be it.”

Chambers said she plans to put forward a motion at the June 17 council meeting that Saanich update its business licences to allow farm stands within the urban containment boundary.

“This yard is an example of the kind of stewardship we want in Saanich,” said Chambers, noting agriculture and food security are a priority in the official community plan.

A Saanich bylaw officer initially told Little she has to remove the stand by Thursday after complaints from two people. In response, Little went public with her story and the stand has since been flooded with customers. Some have come by just to sign the petition and express their support. Kids have been coming by to draw pictures of the stand.

“The support has been amazing,” said Little, 46, who started making preserves last year as a form of therapy for post traumatic stress disorder. She previously worked in counter-terrorism and organized crime for the Canada Border Services Agency.

Little has also been contacted by the manager of Pepper’s Foods in Cadboro Bay, who wanted to talk about selling her products in the store. Local coffee shops and bakeries have also offered to sell her jam.

She makes the raspberry jam and peach salsa in a commercial kitchen rented from the Mustard Seed Street Church and has completed a Food Safe certificate.

Little said she is flattered by the offers, but her first choice is to keep the stand, which brings her joy.

“We didn’t go into this to be Smucker’s,” she said, referring to the century-old jam company. “We did this to do a cute little thing to enhance our community and bring our neighbours together. If my little stand is going to be the face of change, then the fight is worth it.”

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