Saanich woman fighting to keep jam stand open after district told her it has to go

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WATCH: A Saanich woman who makes and sells jams from a stand out in front of her property is being ordered to shut down or face hefty fines. But as Luisa Alvarez tells us she isn’t going quietly and with an ally on council and support from her community, she’s fighting to stay open.

A roadside-farm stand in Saanich is the source of a big fight between its operator and the district.

Inside the stand that sits on the side of Queensbury Avenue, you’ll find jams and salsas hand made by Katherine Little and sold using the honour system.

But last month, Little found out not everyone in the neighbourhood likes her roadside business. Saanich Bylaw received a written complaint and now they say she has to close by June 6 or she could be fined up to $250 a day.

“Saanich’s bylaw enforcement model follows a complaint-driven process – if a complaint is received, staff will follow up accordingly,” read the statement by the district.

“I did the food safe course. We do all the cooking in at the Mustard Seed in the commercial kitchen so we tried to comply with all the bylaws. We had no idea that this was a bylaw infraction because we see stands all over the place,” said Little.

Retail sales aren’t allowed on residential property unless they are a farm stand on a property in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Still, after being forced to retire from law enforcement after 18 years, the stand has helped Katherine in more ways than one.

“In subsequent years, I had PTSD quite severely. This was part of my therapy of getting up out of bed contributing to society and really feeling like part of a community again,” said Little.

And she says she’s not going without a fight.

“If you want me to go to Saanich council if you want me to go to the mayor’s office I’m there, I’m in it for the long haul,” said Little.

She already has councillor Nathalie Chambers in her corner saying the bylaw needs to be updated.

“I would like to see a hawkers licence bylaw so people could actually have little veggies stands and what not,” said Chambers. 

And believes many on council would be on board.

“There is a global sort of feeling in council that we really do have an untapped economy here in Saanich and when we are talking about inter-regional business licencing, we have a natural economy here which is our landscapes,” said Chambers.

Little also has support from the community.

“We should be encouraging people to do this kind of thing not the opposite,” said Judy Parkhurst, one of the jam stand’s faithful customers.

In just 30 days shes gathered over 700 hundred signatures in person and online through a petition as well as a binder filled with letters of support.

“This is the communities stand and they want it,” said Little.

Saanich staff have told Little she is free to sell her product at farmer’s markets and online but Little says she is not giving up.

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