Colleen O’Farrell grows most of the flowers for her arrangements in her own yard – including her favourites, ranunculus. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Saanich florist holds her ground in fight for roadside farm stands

Council to consider pausing enforcement of bylaw banning farm stands

  • May. 23, 2020 12:00 a.m.

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.

READ ALSO: Saanich looks at relaxing farm stand ban

For O’Farrell – a self-proclaimed “behind the scenes person,” – going up against the municipality has been “an intense lesson in local politics.”

She never set out to break the rules or cause problems – she simply wanted to keep making floral arrangements and bring colour to people’s lives.

“I was literally trying to give flowers and smiles away,” before the stand grew into a revenue stream, O’Farrell explained. While her focus is typically on helping people celebrate big events, she’s shifted to the smaller moments that can still be celebrated such as an elopement or a sunny walk through the neighbourhood.

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.

READ ALSO: Support blooms as Saanich flower stand operator takes on bylaw

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.


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devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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