A Foothills County farm store and agri-tourism destination will get to keep its doors open, after a huge show of support from the community on social media reached the ears of an Airdrie engineer who was willing to lend a hand.
Hartell Homestead was faced with closure Oct. 4 unless owners Nick and Alli Shipley secured building approval from a third-party engineer, necessary to maintain a development permit and adhere to the County's land use bylaw. Without the structure's original blueprints — which were lost when the basement of a County building flooded in 2013 — it was a steep ask. Reproducing the blueprints would leave the Shipley's bill in the thousands.
Enter Airdrie-area engineer and small business owner Eric Krautheim.
"He looked at my building, signed off on it and we are good to go," Nick said of Pferdkraft Inc.'s Krautheim, who reached out to him after seeing his plight on social media. Krautheim also owns Township 27 Inc., which creates spices, rubs and condiments in small batches.
"We are ecstatic, he was our saviour."
A petition started last week has now garnered more than 2,000 signatures, among dozens of comments, shares, calls and emails to local and provincial government.
"It's very fantastic, it's amazing to have that much support in our community for what we do," Nick said.
He added that Livingstone-Macleod MLA Roger Reid paid a visit to Hartell, hinting the issue had reached the premier's office.
Premier Jason Kenney visited Hartell Homestead in 2020, during Alberta Open Farm Days.
Despite being spared from a shut down, the Shipley's are still in a fight for Foothills County to establish an agri-tourism specific business district.
The County currently offers an 'agricultural business district' licence, but given the large commercial development required to adhere to that designation and the steep property tax bill, Nick has said it isn't conducive to small farm stores like his.
"Even though I — hopefully — now have no more issues getting this business licence, the next person will," he said.
"We want to make sure that agri-tourism and farms are taken seriously."
Nick said the County is now requiring re-evaluation of the electricity and natural gas lines in his building, following the granting of his business license Thursday. He said this is because the designation of the building has now changed to commercial.
He understands that regulations are in place to ensure everyone's safety, but hitting roadblock after roadblock is discouraging.
"They are hindering somebody that is doing something out of love and basically making it not loved anymore," he said.
"They're taking the fun out of what I do."
A report published in 2021 by the Foothills Tourism Association researched specific policy and regulatory measures of comparable municipalities with the goal of providing insight and recommendations to Foothills County on how it "can better support agri-tourism development through its policies and regulations."
Ultimately, the association recommended the County undertake a regional wayfinding strategy to support the development of rural tourism and agri-tourism in the region.
Hartell Homestead also captured bronze for best tourist attraction in the 2022 Western Wheel Readers' Choice Awards.
This story was updated at 4 p.m. Sept. 29