A Saanich farm faces the prospect of paying at least $1,500 towards erecting Howard the Gnome.
That’s how much it would cost Galey Farms to file an application to make the eight-metre-tall gnome a permanent fixture on their Saanich property. And that figure doesn’t include the cost of refurbishing, then erecting Howard.
Avtar Sundher, director of operations for the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), said existing land use regulations do not allow permanent facilities as part of agri-tourism businesses, unless the ALC approves them. The application process would take about 60 to 90 days, he added.
According to Sundher, the ALC has not yet received such application.
The status of Howard the Gnome remains uncertain after he travelled via truck to Saanich from Nanoose Bay, where he stood more than two decades near a gas station.
Representatives of the gas station told the granddaughter of Howard’s creator, Ron Hale, that they no longer wanted the statue on their property “due to legal reasons.”
This prompted a bidding war for the unique structure, with Saanich’s Galey Farms eventually emerging as Howard’s new home.
As crews were getting ready to move Howard on Thursday, Rob Galey told reporters that Howard is apparently 16 inches too tall for Saanich’s liking, with Galey unwilling to make plans to cut him down to size.
“He is the Guinness Book of World Records, and I don’t plan of de-crowning him of his title,” said Galey. “Sixteen inches is nothing.”
Well, height appears to be only part of the problem.
“The [Agricultural Land Commission] has confirmed that although [agri-tourism] is considered a farm use which would not require an application to the ALC, the construction or erection of permanent facilities is not permitted,” said Megan Catalano, a Saanich spokesperson last week. “As such, the Galeys would need to apply to the ALC for a non-farm use.”
Saanich, she said, requires compliance with ALC regulations, something staff told Galey in early April.
“Planning staff were in contact with the Galeys as soon they were aware of the Galey family’s intent to acquire the gnome,” she said. “Staff met with the Galeys in early April and informed them of the zoning requirements and suggested they contact the ALC as soon as possible to ensure all of their requirements were addressed.”
She added that Saanich staff have not received any confirmation from the Galeys about Howard’s height since the meeting held in early April. “To date, no variance application has been received.”
Rob Galey said he plans to talk to Saanich again to resolve this issue on the premise that the ALC will act on feedback from the municipality. This said, Galey said the demands of his farm have pressed him for time. The farm is first priority, he said, adding that agri-tourism represents only a minor share of his business. Still, Galey said he would hate to let people down, adding that community support for his efforts have been exclusively supportive.