Roadside jam seller in Saanich told she must go

A Saanich woman who sells jam from a stand at the end of her driveway says she’s under siege from Saanich bylaw officers who say the stand must go.

Since July, Katherine Little has been selling homemade jam and salsa from a small white and blue stand on Queensbury Avenue, a quiet street adjacent to Cedar Hill Golf Course.

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Little picks the fruit from her raspberry bush and peach tree and makes the salsa from tomatoes in her garden. The preserves sell for between $5 and $8 a jar, but the 46-year-old isn’t in it for the money.

It’s a form of therapy for her post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of a workplace injury six years ago, when she was working with the Canada Border Services Agency in the organized crime and terrorism section.

“People leave me little notes saying what a touch of humanity this brings,” she said. “It’s really brought me out of the shell of this dark place I was in.”

But in April, she found out not everyone in the neighbourhood was happy with the roadside jam sales.

A Saanich bylaw officer told Little she was not allowed to display sandwich board-style signs or signs nailed to a telephone pole. Little removed one of the offending signs, but was told the stand itself was violating bylaws because it was on a Saanich-owned boulevard and she doesn’t have a business licence.

Saanich has said the stand must be shut down by June 6, or Little could face fines of $250 a day.

“This isn’t a business, it’s a hobby. It’s something I’m doing to build my community up,” Little said. “This is a reason for me to get out of bed every morning.”

Little said her jams are safe, because she completed a food-handling course and makes the preserves in a commercial kitchen rented from the Mustard Seed.

She said she’s using produce that would otherwise go to waste.

Little was told bylaw officers were acting on complaints from two people who were concerned about the signs and an increase in traffic in the area.

She said most people pick up the jam on walks or bike rides in the neighbourhood and drivers stop just long enough to pop cash in a lock box.

On Tuesday, armed with hundreds of letters, texts, emails and signatures of support, Little met with Graham Barbour, Saanich’s manager of inspection services. She handed over the 10-centimetre-thick binder of documents and pleaded for leniency.

Barbour told the Times Colonist that bylaws are complaint-driven and if Saanich receives a complaint, bylaw officers must act on it.

“I have to be an unbiased third party — I can’t be influenced by emotional letters and emails coming in,” he said.

“That’s in the realm of the politicians. I have to read the regulation and enforce the regulation.”

Retail sales aren’t allowed on residential property, Barbour said, with the exception of farm stalls on property in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Little is free to sell her jam at craft fairs or by delivery to interested customers, he said.

But that defeats the purpose of creating a sense of community in the neighbourhood, Little said.

“It was such a great thing to do to build the community. What harm is this doing? What is this tiny little stand doing to anyone?”

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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