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City crackdown has in-home concert promoter singing blues

Posted December 11, 2009

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— 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.

Bett Padgett's home Raleigh says concerts can't be held in home

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.


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  • singularity1111 Dec 14, 2009

    I've been to more than one of these house concerts and find them quite enjoyable. I've also been to Christmas and birthday parties there as well. They get some really talented musicians to come through there. I think WRAL's own Bill Leslie actually played one once. Cool John Ferguson has performed there.
    I can say with 100% veracity that Bill and Bette have never taken any money from these events.
    It wouldn't surprise me one bit if they continue to hold these parties and just pay the fines.

    I used to live in that neighborhood and never saw a problem with what they're doing. Its not against the law to park on the street there and the property is big enough that noise isn't a problem.

  • WooHoo2You Dec 11, 2009

    "How absolutely ridiculous. So if I held a large birthday party at my home for each of my kids, and it was typical that some in attendance gave my kids money, this would be considered a business?"

    Do your kids have an average of almost 10 PAID birthdays per year...

    They are also charging for music lessons however are not a business?

    Applebees is just looking forward to your company however you need to pay for your food.

  • OhBella Dec 11, 2009

    If I were the neighbor, I would be upset too. The cars and traffic does not belong in a neighborhood. I am sure the money made is not put on taxes either. I am sure they can hold free concerts if they want.

  • dragonslayer Dec 11, 2009

    It doesnt matter what the event is if they are charging admission. If money changes hands they require a business license and the correct zoning . It is not fair they are on private property. After all thats what neighbors are for.

  • iamyeary Dec 11, 2009

    Hmm, just recently my neighbors had a concert at their home and INVITED the neighbors to attend. They mentioned that "donations" would be accepted. I did not attend, but perhaps this would be a better way for this group to continue with their concerts. Good Luck.

  • MileageWarrior Dec 11, 2009

    How absolutely ridiculous. So if I held a large birthday party at my home for each of my kids, and it was typical that some in attendance gave my kids money, this would be considered a business?

    Find something better to do with your time, Raleigh.

  • whatelseisnew Dec 11, 2009

    File under the left loves Fascism.

  • ICTrue Dec 11, 2009

    File under "No good deed goes unpunished"