Lacombe County has issued a stop order for a Mirror antiques business, whose owner refuses to apply for a development permit, maintaining his store sits on Aboriginal land.
Joseph Fromhold has until Aug. 2 to comply with the order, otherwise the matter could end up in court, said Peter Duke, planning and economic development officer for the County of Lacombe.
Fromhold has not responded to the Advocate’s requests for comment. He opened the Heritage Antiques store in an old CP Rail bunkhouse he purchased and has been advertising the business with signs along the highway since June.
Duke said he’d spoken to Fromhold several times, before and after the store opening, about how a development permit is required, but the Blackfalds resident has refused to apply for one.
Fromhold maintains that his non-status Mountain Cree Band has historically occupied the land the bunkhouse sits on, and, as a band member, he does not need to comply with municipal permits, said Duke.
Yet no government the municipality knows of has worked out a land claim with the Mountain Cree band.
“We have a difference of opinion,” said Duke. Fromhold “is of the opinion that it’s up to us to prove that he doesn’t have a claim, whereas we are of the opinion that it’s up to him to prove he has an Aboriginal claim to the land… He believes this is First Nations land, and we don’t.”
Applying for a development permit is a simple process, he added. But the situation has devolved to the point Fromhold is no longer speaking to the municipality, but is referring Duke to his lawyer.
A stop order was delivered to Fromhold on July 12. He has up to Aug. 2 to file an appeal, otherwise the county will take legal action.
Fromhold has plans to move several organizations into the former bunkhouse, including the Mountain Cree Band office, a museum and a Northern Plains Research Centre, which helps trace the genealogy of First Nations people.
Lacombe County welcomes new developments, said Anita O’Driscoll, the county’s senior planner. “We certainly don’t want to inhibit business in Mirror” — but developers need to follow the rules, she added.