Saanich approves height variance for Howard the Gnome at Galey Farms – Times Colonist

Saanich approves height variance for Howard the Gnome at Galey Farms - Times Colonist
Saanich approves height variance for Howard the Gnome at Galey Farms
But Saanich council has decided Howard the Gnome can keep his home — and approved a height variance permit that allows the smiling behemoth to stand at Galey Farms in Saanich.

Howard stands 7.91 metres tall — which was 40.64 centimetres or 16 inches too tall for Saanich's regulations — until Monday night's council decision.

The owner of Galey Farms, where Howard has been staying since his adoption in March, couldn't be happier.

He was built to attract customers to a family amusement park that used to operate in the area. Twenty-one years later, after falling into disrepair, the propertys new owners told the gnomes original makers that it would be torn down due to safety concerns if it was not moved.

"You could not get the smile off my face," said Rob Galey, owner of Galey Farms. "I think I slept with it on all last night."

When the request came before council Monday evening, multiple councillors and Mayor Fred Haynes threw their support behind the application, citing community benefits and a relatively small request as reasons to approve it.

But Howard is taking up agricultural land, and that means he won't be a permanent installation for families to enjoy year-round.

The Agricultural Land Commission said the gnome is only permitted to stand at the farm for 90 days a year.

At the moment, Howard is in the midst of getting a makeover and will be ready for Halloween and pumpkin patch season.

"It will make it special," said Saanich Coun. Colin Plant. "This would be the best time."

Galey Farm is a family attraction and working farm that features several theme areas, including dinosaurs, a Western town and an Addams Family graveyard.

His record-setting stature, however, became an obstacle for Saanichs Galey Farms as the municipality has a 7.5-metre height restriction for agri-tourism attractions.

Howards is being airbrushed by hand to bring back his colour. He's been given new lips and new eyelashes will be applied Wednesday.

Galey Farms was one of many properties that offered to move the gnome, and was eventually chosen as its new home back in May. 

But given he's such a behemoth, isn't there the possibility he'll scare the daylights out of a few kids?

Howard is the Guinness World Records-certified worlds tallest gnome and stands an impressive 7.9 metres tall, or roughly 26 feet.

"Him standing there waving and blinking his eyes with big long eyelashes, who's going to be scared of him?" said Galey.

"Everybodys going to love to see him now that hes all fresh and finally taken care of," said Galey.

The gnome was built by Ron Hale in 1998 to promote his family's amusement park, which was called Gnome Man's Land.

But Howard has been teetering on the edge of destruction. His previous owners at a Nanoose Bay, B.C., gas station said in March that he was in disrepair and they would need to tear him down if he didn't find a new home.

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Saanich council has approved a height variance that will allow the gigantic garden ornament to take up residence at Galey Farms, 4150 Blenkinsop Rd.

The gnomes future had been up in the air for weeks due to the fact that he stands 25 feet, 11 inches tall — 16 inches taller than zoning allows.

Councillors, however, agreed to overlook that discrepancy rather than cut Howard off at the knees and risk his Guinness World Record status as the largest garden gnome on the planet.

Its time that we stood tall on these kinds of issues, Mayor Fred Haynes told council. Its of course about supporting our local farmers and a wonderful family.

But its also about putting the smile on many childrens faces and just raising the profile of the wonder of Saanich.

Not everyone was in support. A number of residents expressed concern about a massive, illuminated gnome looming over their properties.

But councillors were swayed by a staff report that said Galey Farms plans to install Howard for three weeks each year during its Fall Harvest Festival. Staff said the gnome will be removed and stored off site for the remainder of the year.

The temporary positioning of the gnome, I think, is really what sells this for me, said Saanich Coun. Nathalie Chambers.

I live on Blenkinsop. October is THE month on Blenkinsop. Weve got the Galey corn maze. Its all going on. Its crazy.

And I think that the Galey family have done the agri-tourism thing really well. They have made a lot of kids happy and they continue to grow food.

To me, this is about the 16 inches, he said. It is not about the temporary or the permanent use; thats up to the [Agricultural Land Commission], because thats not within our jurisdiction. Whats within our jurisdiction is the 16 inches. I dont think 16 inches is an unreasonable ask.

And, for me, this is proof of a council showing support to a local farmer. We talk about supporting agriculture all the time in this chamber and heres a chance to support a local farmer who engages in agri-tourism.

Galey Farms was selected as Howards new owner in March by descendants of the late Ron Hale, who built the gnome more than 20 years ago to advertise a now-closed amusement park at Nanoose Bay.

Hales family began searching for a new gnome home after learning Howard would have to move from his previous location at the Nanoose Bay Town Pantry and Chevron station by the end of April or be demolished.

Bridget Matewish, Hales granddaughter, told the Times Colonist at the time that they loved the Blenkinsop location and the fact that Howard would be a family attraction. We all had the same gut feeling that my grandfather would really like that location for him.

Saanich staff said Howard will be installed in the northwest corner of the farm site and lit by LED lights that will turn off at 10 each night.

Rob Galey said Tuesday that he was ecstatic at councils decision to approve the variance. Its a big load off my shoulders, he said. I have been worried. So much work has gone into him.

Galey said Howard has undergone a number of repairs and modifications that will allow him to wave his arm and blink his bright blue eyes.

We actually built lips and gave him a smile, so he doesnt look scary anymore, he added. He looks very, very friendly for the young children.

With the council decision behind him, Galey expects Howard to be in place for the farms Pumpkinfest and Festival of Fear in October.

I have not been able to get the smile off my face, he said. My best buddy Howard is now legal and hes home here in Saanich at Galey Farms.