If the back-and-forth saga of a Vancouver Island tourist attraction were a movie, it would be called Howard and the Sixteen Angry Inches.
Howard — the moniker of the world’s largest gnome — is apparently 16 inches too tall for Saanich’s liking, but his new owner has no 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 Rob Galey of Galey Farms. “Sixteen inches is nothing.”
He made these comments, while talking with local reporters in Nanoose Bay, after crews had dismantled the gnome for transport.
Howard, for the record, is eight metres tall or nearly 315 inches.
He proudly stood at the Chevron gas station along the Island Highway near Nanoose Bay for more than two decades, starting in 1998. But representatives of the gas station recently told the grand-daughter 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.
Galey’s remarks do not make it clear why Saanich objects to Howard’s height. “There are some issues,” he said. “I don’t really want to get into it at this time. I’m going back to Saanich and we are going to have to find a solution.”
Galey, however, insists that lowering Howard’s height is not an option.
Howard is due to arrive in the Greater Victoria area later today. It is unclear though where he will lay down his head. “I’m not even saying which warehouses is going to,” said Galey. “He is going to different places. Different people will be working on him and he will not be viewable to the public at all.”
Hopefully, some resolution will emerge, he said.
At issue is the status of Galey’s land inside the Agricultural Land Reserve, said Megan Catalano, a spokesperson for the District of Saanich.
“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,” she said. “As such, the Galeys would need to apply to the ALC for a non-farm use.”
Catalano said staff met with Galey as soon they heard about his decision to acquire the gnome. “Saanich staff have not received any confirmation from the Galeys about height since the meeting held in early April,” she said. “To date, no variance application [for the bylaw regulating height] has been received.”