VICTORIA -- A heated saga has reached a temporary conclusion now that the District of Saanich is allowing roadside stands to operate amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saanich council unanimously approved a new zoning bylaw that allows for the roadside sale of homegrown produce and crafts at a public hearing Tuesday.

Several Saanich residents called into the hearing expressing support for the bylaw amendment before it was ultimately approved.

Saanich residents can now operate a roadside stand so long as they have received a municipal permit. The permit is expected to last for as long as the COVID-19 pandemic remains an emergency.

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes says he is excited about the new bylaw amendment and is interested to see what products “come from our residents’ gardens.”

He added that some Saanich residents have told him that the roadside stands have been a vital part of the community and a balm for loneliness during the pandemic, especially for elderly residents.

“It’s a charming moment to have a walk around or a bike around and stop at some of these stands,” he said at the public hearing.

He adds that he believes the new policy will be “a success” and that the amendment likely would have been approved earlier had the COVID-19 pandemic not arisen.

District staff say that besides issuing permits, staff will not be regularly monitoring the roadside stands. Instead, operations will only be reviewed if a complaint is reported.

Staff add that reviews of the new bylaw amendment will be taking place, but no reports will be submitted unless requested by district council while the pandemic is ongoing.