City crackdown has in-home concert promoter singing blues
Posted December 11, 2009
Raleigh, N.C. — Bett Padgett and her husband have hosted informal concerts in their home for years, saying they give a chance for friends to get together and for musicians to try out new material.
City inspectors are singing a different tune about the gatherings, saying Padgett is illegally operating a business.
Zoning inspectors issued a notice of violation against her in September following a neighbor's complaint, and the city Board of Adjustment will hear her appeal of the violation next Monday.
The issue isn't about how loud the concerts are, although 50 to 100 people are often in attendance. Rather, the city doesn't like the number of events held each year and the fact that the musicians are often paid by those in attendance.
Under Raleigh's city codes, no more than three scheduled events like that can be held in a year, city inspector Larry Strickland said Thursday.
Holding more than three such events a year – the Padgetts have hosted 87 since 2000 – qualifies you as a business, Strickland said. And businesses aren't permitted in the Dixie Trail neighborhood where the couple lives, he said.
"If it is a business, we're not good at making money for ourselves," Bett Padgett said. "I don't think it's a business. It's more like gatherings, such as a party."
She said she opened her home to give musicians, primarily folk groups, a place to play and exercise creativity.
"They take risks by playing songs for the public they have not played before," she said. "They tell stories. There's banter back and forth between the audience."
Padgett, who has resolved a separate zoning violation for offering guitar lessons in her home without a permit, is so frustrated by the city's stance on the concerts that she has written a protest song about it.
"I got a letter from the city, and the city told me to stop having those concerts. You can only have three," the song begins before questioning whether the city would crack down on other events, like prayer meetings, political fundraisers or children's birthday parties if more than three were held in a year.
"To peacefully assemble in our homes, it's not a business," she sings at the conclusion of the song.
If Padgett loses her appeal, she faces a $100 fine for her next in-home concert and $500 fines for subsequent concerts.
"I think that any kind of home should be able to have any kind of meetings they want to," she said.