House Concerts a Federal Case To Thread - Forum Home

The Mudcat Café TM
https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=90420
47 messages

House Concerts a Federal Case

08 Apr 06 - 11:23 PM (#1713532)
Subject: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: Nathan in Texas

Defend our freedom to gather and jam! Check it out here.
http://tinyurl.com/ncv9t


09 Apr 06 - 12:20 AM (#1713543)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: michaelr

As long as you don't charge for anything but keep it on a donation basis, there should be no way you could be prevented from having friends in your house enjoying music... right?

Unless you live in one of those "private" subdivisions that get to make their own laws?


09 Apr 06 - 01:40 AM (#1713556)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST,Don Meixner

I think we could see this coming pretty clearly.

Don


09 Apr 06 - 02:23 AM (#1713559)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: The Shambles

For the words of the Federal Complaint.

http://pages.prodigy.net/cah/concert/complaint.pdf


09 Apr 06 - 02:40 AM (#1713569)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: The Shambles

http://livingroommusic.blogspot.com/


09 Apr 06 - 03:07 PM (#1713930)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: The Shambles

I think we could see this coming pretty clearly.

Don are you referring to the 'official' moves against House Concerts or the Federal Case now started to defend the right to hold and play in them?


09 Apr 06 - 10:05 PM (#1714163)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: The Fooles Troupe

NOW YOU SEE THE REPRESSION INHERENT IN THE SYSTEM!!!!

:-)


09 Apr 06 - 10:45 PM (#1714186)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST,Don Meixner

The official moves against them. Also the problems inherent between house concerts, advertising and charging for them and the ADA(Americans With Disabilities Act and free access to publically held events..

Don


10 Apr 06 - 06:09 AM (#1714344)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: The Shambles

How does this work in the USA.

Does not each State make its own law on such things as the legality of House Concerts?


10 Apr 06 - 08:45 AM (#1714427)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST,DonMeixner

Thats how I would think Shambles. Actually each community would decide if it fits their idea of correct use of the property. Usually these decisions are based on Use of Property Codes and zoning.   Generally speaking it is your property to use as you wish provided it doesn't detract from or subvert the normal use of the property around it.

Zoning may be Commercial, Industrial, Residential, Agricultural. With a few residential cross overs thrown in. For instance you may have a store in the village center which meets commercial codes but you may have an apartment upstairs of the store. You probably have then a C/R zone in which you live.

Many communities don't allow for primarily residential areas to have any commercial presence at all. There are parts of my community that wouldn't allow me to have my jewelery shop as I do. But my shop has been there since my Dad ran it, long before the code and zoning so I am Grandfathered in.

My feelings on the house concert issue is this is just one more way some people are trying to force other people to conform to their notion of propriety.

In otherwords somebody, somewhere may be having a good time and someone is pissed off that they aren't part of it.

I'm doing my best to keep politics out of this and remain neutral.

Don


10 Apr 06 - 11:34 AM (#1714540)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: Maryrrf

Oh this is so irritating. What possible harm could these house concerts be causing - especially as there were no issues with noise, illegal parking, etc. The problem with a lot of these community associations is that they are taken over by small minded individuals on little power trips who love to go around with a magnifying glass looking for possible "violations". I hope these "folkies" move to a more open minded place and sell the house to drug dealers - that might give the neighbors something to fret about.


10 Apr 06 - 12:19 PM (#1714573)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: The Shambles

It is all beginning to sound horribly familiar.


10 Apr 06 - 12:49 PM (#1714596)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: MaineDog

If you were trying to run a church or even an occassional prayer meeting in you home you would have the same problem. Don is right, people get pissed off when they see others having fun...
Do you concerts have any religious connection? If so, you could find help from people like the Alliance Defense Fund, or the ACLJ.

MD


10 Apr 06 - 01:06 PM (#1714611)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: Rabbi-Sol

Try the Rutherford Institute in Fairfax, VA. I know that their lawyers are defending the local home Synagogues pro bono against the bigots who promulgate unfair zoning laws. They won a huge judgement against the village of Airmont here in Rockland County. House concerts are welcome and desirable in my neck of the woods. Religous prayer services are another matter.

                                             SOL ZELLER


10 Apr 06 - 02:36 PM (#1714673)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: Genie

So would this kind of law apply to Tupperware, Amway, and Upscale Porn Lingerie parties too? How about people who do piano or voice lessons in their home?   Are they prohibited in "residential" areas, too?   Or do they have to provide handicapped access?   

What's next?   No more garage sales except in areas that are zoned "commercial?"


10 Apr 06 - 02:59 PM (#1714693)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: MaineDog

My fiddle teacher in Mass was challanged for having jam sessions, even though they were free, since she also gave lessons for pay in her house.
She had to agree not to have more than 2 students on site at one time! I don't know how it was resolved.
MD


10 Apr 06 - 03:40 PM (#1714714)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: Genie

FWIW, I often hear people on the other side of the political aisle from me bellowing about the horrors of "big government." Personally, I often find the petty-minded bureaucrats and mini-Nazis of the SMALL -- city, county -- government the most oppressive of all!


10 Apr 06 - 04:05 PM (#1714734)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: Maryrrf

Good point, Genie. Not too far from where I live four Buddhist monks bought a house. They were living there quietly until it was discovered that they occasionally held small meditation meetings. There weren't very many people who attended (it was only a small ranch house) but the neighbors got all up in arms because they claimed they were running a religious institution and the neighborhood wasn't zoned for it. There was quite an uproar but in the end I think I recall that the monks won their case. At any rate, they're still living in the house.


10 Apr 06 - 05:31 PM (#1714815)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: Rabbi-Sol

In Wesley Hills, the town that is adjacent to me, you have to secure a permit if you are having a birthday party or family gathering and notify the town in advance. You can not have more tan 4 cars at a time parked at your house without this special permit. Lucky that I am on the other side of Grandview Ave., just 3 houses away from their jurisdiction.
                                              SOL ZELLER


10 Apr 06 - 10:26 PM (#1714892)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST

New installment posted today (April 10, 2006). You can follow the saga by checking back in frequently. There's also a place to post your comments.


11 Apr 06 - 12:15 AM (#1714938)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST,Don Meixner

Of course the rules change community by community, state by state. I asked the local zone god about this and I was told the second it was mentioned on an open website it was advertised. And the second any kind of payment of admission was asked for, no matter where the money went it became a business.

He further said that short of asking for and getting granted a change of use statute for the existing zone code these people will probably lose.
The bad part isn't that they will no longer be able to have house concerts when the spirit moves but it will set a precident in Pennsylvania banning house concerts in general for the people who had maybe one a year.

So we will have a couple dozen middleaged tubby people from all income levels pooling their money to rent a warehouse and hold the quietest, most mellow, and well behaved accoustic raves the east has ever seen.

"On the charge of wontonly playing guitar with banjo, whistle , and violin back up how do you pleade DR. Wilson?"

"Not guilty your Honor, I was leading the accapela Sea Chanty sing while we set the table for the pot luck."

"Bailiff! There is no mention of drugs in this arraingment report!"

"I'll look into it sir."

"Mr. DA? Mr. Public defender? A side bar?"


Don


11 Apr 06 - 11:29 AM (#1715193)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST,M.Ted

I looked up the Zoning ordinance for O'Hara Township(which is where this all takes place) and discovered that it took effect in 2002--prior to that time, there was no zoning ordinance--this is likely to be the first test of that ordinance's legality--

Township Boards consist of regular folks, and the ordinances that they devise don't always comply with what is acceptible under the law. This ordinance has some things in it that really make a person wonder--for instance, in several places, it forbids any uses that are not spelled out in the ordinance--legality aside, it is incredibly shortsighted, because it rules out the construction of anything yet to be invented--

At any rate, from the township's point of view, this lawsuit is very risky, because the zoning ordinance could be thrown out by the Federal Court, and that could cause them way more trouble than any house concert ever did--


11 Apr 06 - 01:00 PM (#1715245)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: The Shambles

There is also the danger of the lawsuit failing..........?


11 Apr 06 - 01:22 PM (#1715259)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST,DonMeixner

In my town in New York regards to zoning it is regularly assumed that any not specifically allowed in the ordinance is specifically disallowed until action changes its consideration in the code.

Don


11 Apr 06 - 03:05 PM (#1715336)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST,Richard Bridge

It is widely assumed by English constitutional lawyers (and expressed by Dicey) that a code that prohibits everything that is not specifically allowed is anathema.


11 Apr 06 - 04:39 PM (#1715433)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: Jim Dixon

As I understand it, a critical factor here is that the "house concerts" were being advertised on the Internet. (The host says he has quit doing that.) That's crossing a significant line. It's equivalent to putting up posters in a public place. It means it's no longer a private party but a public event. Complete strangers can show up and presumably be admitted.

I'm not saying I would want to ban this activity, but I can understand how it would make some people nervous.

And perhaps the relevant question is this: If you don't draw the line between public vs. private events, or between commercial vs. non-commercial events, then where DO you draw the line?

I think we would all agree (wouldn't we?) that communities have SOME right to limit what goes on in them. So where would YOU draw the line?


11 Apr 06 - 05:55 PM (#1715511)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST,RIchard Bridge

The law, properly drawn, and properly enforced, may regulate behaviour. "Communities": no, for that is vigilantism.


11 Apr 06 - 06:13 PM (#1715523)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: The Shambles

I think we would all agree (wouldn't we?) that communities have SOME right to limit what goes on in them. So where would YOU draw the line?

I think when what is being risked is more than what is to be gained.

This does not seem to be an intentional attempt to prevent House Concerts - but that looks as if it will be the result.

Perhaps attention should be paid only when or if an individual event does in fact cause some measurable problem. Then steps can be taken to address this rather than placing he whole thing at risk.


11 Apr 06 - 07:11 PM (#1715570)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: Genie

But when you hold a garage sale and put an ad in the local paper, isn't that advertising a commercial event? Or what if the Girl Scouts hold a bake sale in the Scout Leader's yard?


And if you have to announce ahead of time and apply for a permit, there go the surprise parties!


11 Apr 06 - 07:39 PM (#1715589)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: Jim Dixon

When I said "communities" maybe I should have said "municipalities." I meant whatever governing body at the local level makes zoning ordinances. Would that satisfy your objection, Richard Bridge?


12 Apr 06 - 03:01 AM (#1715897)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST,RIchard Bridge

An appropriate local authority should have powers, derived from law, but its powers will only be those it properly so derives. Other acts willbe ultra vires. In a federal system, there will be demarcation between state and nation - including so-called "federal pre-emption". A particular nation willhave its own peculiarities of this.

In the USA I would have expected, subject to federal pre-emption, the state, not the city, to be the source of residual sovereignty, so that the state would have to confer on smaller parts of local government the powers of those smaller parts. Thus in the UK, a parish council may make bye-laws, but only within its powers, and the byelaws may be challenged for substantive or procedural defect, as happened in the "Greenham Common" case.

So, in principle, no, I do not accept that in a democratic system the particular "municipality" has full residual law-making power. It will have to derive its law-making power from somewhere, and exercise it accordingly.

It is the same argument as saying that a constitution is logically prior to sovereignty.


12 Apr 06 - 10:01 AM (#1716102)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST,M.Ted

Richard Bridge is right on target with his comments--

The principle of restriction of law making powers layed out in the constitution goes a step further in the US, at least in the Federalist view-the idea is that the bill of rights was a positive affirmation that no law making authority, local, state or federal, should have the power to impinge on human rights that have been traditionally granted in "natural law", roughly corresponding to common law--

In keeping with that point, issues here are deeper issues, specifically related to questions about the degree that any level of government is entitled to regulate the "natural law"   uses of private, personal property .

Check this link The Birth of the Property Rights Movement to the conservative Cato Institute--They might also be a useful resource for Cindy Harris--


12 Apr 06 - 05:11 PM (#1716540)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST,DonMeixner

In my experience deeling with Local Codes, Zoning, and building construction I have learned a few things. And it is often difficult to explain without oversimplification.

To be recocnized by the state of New York each designated municipality musr have a charter. To have a charter the community must accept the rules of the state regards to a charter. The State of New York has a health, building, and zoning code that is their base line for acceptance and the state invites the small governments to accpt this basic set of laws. But the state also says you can create code restrictions that are stricter than the states but no less strict then the states.

If the community doesn't wish to have it's own codes but does wish to be a chartered local government the State of New York through the Department of the interior Enforces the state code.

Local codes may get stiffer because the state code doesn't cover specific instances that are unique to specific communities. It appears this ability to make codes stricter that allows for gated communities and building projects with community covenants. Such as housing developments that don't allow RV's in driveways, house color is restricted, and the home owners associations decide if kids may play in the front yards or not.

Nothing is a simple as "I own it, I can paint it if I wish, what color I wish" Anymore.

Don


12 Apr 06 - 06:16 PM (#1716621)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: McGrath of Harlow

Surely if putting word about some event on a website counts as a commercial activity, which can be prohibited within a neighbourhood, that would include selling something on e-bay.

Presumably a home recording studio would be illegal too. What about writing a book you hope to get published? What about reading a book you hope might help you get a job?

Leadbelly put it rather well:

"Home of the Brave,
Land of the Free,
I don't want to get mistreated by no Bourgeoisie"


12 Apr 06 - 11:21 PM (#1716952)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST,M.Ted

One of these days, the question about "I own it, I can paint it..." will make it to the Supreme Court, and when it does, it'll make the Rowe v. Wade controversy look like a Sunday School Picnic--


13 Apr 06 - 12:26 AM (#1716998)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST,DonMeixner

MTed, It pretty much has reached the Supreme Court already. This happened when the Court up held the ability of a private individual to have property condemed under the Emminent Domain Statutes based on the assuption that his mall that he is building will be a greater tax benefit to the municipality than are the home and small property owners.
And it matters not that the Mall builder is building this megastructure for his own personal profit.

People who buy into gated communities with covenants and neighbor hood taste and style commandos deserve their little patch of Ticky Tacky in what ever souless Stepford they have found. I'd rather live where there are dandelions and trees and flamingo shaped beer can cozies and the odd bit of lawn art.

Don


13 Apr 06 - 12:43 PM (#1717289)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: Maryrrf

Don, I COMPLETELY agree. When I was looking for a house to buy I made sure there was no homeowners association in the subdivision. We we can paint our houses any color we choose, have chain link fences, tacky above ground pools, trucks or RV's parked in full view, open garage or shed doors, and if I don't get around to mowing the grass as often as I should nobody shows up with a notice that I have violated some neighborhood covenant. To each his own, but I'd resent it like hell if somebody told me what kind of mailbox I had to have. It wasn't clear if the folk concert people lived in a planned community, though.


13 Apr 06 - 01:47 PM (#1717357)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST,M.Ted

The Kelo v. New London decision is not the end of the issue, Don, in a lot of ways, it is the beginning of the issue--check the Cato Institute link above, and read the full article, which is offered in PDF format--this is a much more important issue to the Conservatives than Rowe v. Wade, and it is an issue that has meaning for most people--

And, yes, I know we don't disgree;-)


13 Apr 06 - 02:02 PM (#1717371)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST,M.Ted

Incidentally, I think that the House Concert folks took the wrong course of action when they filed the Federal Lawsuit. They go on forever, and cost a lot, in both time and money.

In practical terms, the easiest thing to do is to go to the Zoning Comission and ask for a variance, based on the idea that the House Concerts are a cultural event that enriches the community--you can throw in the idea that it folk and traditional music are endangered cultural resourses that you are striving to preserve them, and, if the township continues its action, they will disappear from the township forever--You could get letters of support from a wide variety of places, including folks connected to this board, some of whom can steer you to folks from the Smithsonian and from other prestigious places who might say a word on your behalf.

You might even go directly to the Township Board, and ask that they pass an amendment that allows House Concerts, since they are a cultural and historical activity that benefits the community. If that doesn't work, you could run yourself and two friends for the township board and then pass the amendments yourselves.

If you do this, it becomes a win/win situation, not an adversarial situation, and when all is said and done, your position will be stronger--The lawsuit, however it ends, will leave you tired, broke, and bitter.


14 Apr 06 - 02:55 PM (#1718262)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: The Shambles

Can not both options be tried?


14 Apr 06 - 03:33 PM (#1718285)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST,M.Ted

Both options? Do you mean Lawsuit and applying for a zoning variance? That could work, since it would be obvious that, with your zoning variance, there would be no reason for you to continue the lawsuit.

On the other hand, the Zoning Board might decide that they don't want to hear your application for a zoning variance until the lawsuit was resolved. At which time you'd have to go get a court order compelling them to hear it. Then, if they declined it, you could claim that it was retaliatory, and file yet another lawsuit. Sooner or later, someone is going to say that you are litigious, at which point you can sue them for defamation;-)--

Or did you mean both apply for a variance and run for Township Board? I'd apply for the variance first, and run for the township board as a last resort--


14 Apr 06 - 03:45 PM (#1718287)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: DonMeixner

In most communities I have worked in a variance hearing with no promise of an approval = $250.00 or more.That alone stops most variance hearings. And zoning is such a cold fish that they don't care whether you are a not for profit or a public service. You pay the money to file the paper.

I read the story Ted and I agree it is just the beginning. My point was it was already on the federal radar with the first hit going to the developer in this case.

I'm sure more will happen in this field.

Don


24 Apr 06 - 03:43 PM (#1726234)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: GUEST,cah@lonewolf.com

Good thoughts on applying for a variance. The problem with that is that it's not clear what we need a variance for. We're hosting parties, not running a business -- the web site has been offline for 3 years so the only people who come are people who receive invitations and friends they invite. Hard to contend that inviting people via e-mail (which we were specifically allowed to do according to the Zoning Hearing Board) is "advertising" when we know everyone we're sending to. To say that this was a violation of some sort would mean that they'd have to ban mailing invitiations with a request for RSVP's too. There have been no parking violations. There is nothing in the zoning ordinance that specifies that a permit is required for a party or limits the number of parties per year per household. Yep, we chip in for the music, but football parties where people chip in for pizza and beer don't seem to violate the ordinance, so how is what we do different? And things that are clearly more commercial than house concerts don't generate cease and desist orders: Tupperware parties, scrapbooking, Mary Kay...the list could go on. I don't think anyone's trying to prohibit a kids party with a hired clown either. Two bat mitzvah parties for my daughters that had house concerts attached (and were much bigger than my usual house concerts) did not generate any complaints. Ditto for the neighbor's graduation party for his son with an amplified band in the back yard. So what exactly is the objection to our parties? The Township has said "stop doing that" but they still have not specified exactly what "that" we're supposed to stop.

See the blog for updated information. The Zoning Hearing Board was specifically instructed by their lawyer that they had to vote "yea" or "nay" on the cease and desist order: asking us to just take down the web and making it go away was not an option.

And thanks for all the really good ideas here. As you might imagine I'm busier than a one-armed paper hanger trying to keep up with all the discussion in various forums, but it's definitely worth the trouble: we've picked up some great ideas and some good leads from the collective out there in the ether.

Cindy Harris


24 Feb 07 - 04:52 PM (#1978321)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: Nathan in Texas

Legal fund has been established.

http://livingroommusic.googlepages.com/


24 Feb 07 - 06:16 PM (#1978393)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: Joe Offer

It's an issue that worries me at times. Some of our Sacramento Song Circle sessions will draw 50 people, and that's a lot of cars to park in a neighborhood. Nobody hosts more than twice a year, so it's not a huge imposition on a neighborhood.

I have a friend who hosts one or two house concerts a month and regularly draws 30 people. His neighbors seem cool about it, but it does make me wonder.

The San Francisco Folk Music Club has had a song circle at Faith Petric's house on Clayton Street, every other week since the 1960's. There is NO PARKING to be found in any neighborhood in San Francisco, so people take public transportation or park blocks away - so Faith's song circle has little impact on neighborhood parking. Parking isn't prohibited in SF - it's just impossible to find.

But music gatherings are a big imposition on a neighborhood, and it behooves us to be considerate. Many people make a point of inviting the neighbors to song circles and concerts, and this helps a lot.

Hint: don't charge the neighbors for house concert admission, and they may even let the audience park in their driveway.

-Joe-


24 Feb 07 - 06:21 PM (#1978400)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: Peace

Reminds me of a time that Dick Gregory was speaking. He was informed that the folks were assembling illegally because they had no right to engage in a 'protest' march without a permit. Gregory took the microphone and said words to the effect, "You are all invited to my house. Follow me."


24 Feb 07 - 06:43 PM (#1978421)
Subject: RE: House Concerts a Federal Case
From: moongoddess

This interference by the government infuriates me! I want to hold house concerts and I thought I had covered all the bases. Guess not. I hold a "pig roast" every year where we cook a pig all day long, serve the beer I have brewed, and have a good time. I invite most neighbors and we don't get any complaints. One year, the police showed up and we invited them in and they joined the party, had fun, and forgot that they were guardians of the public safety. My freedom ends where rules begin. That is so stupid. If I want my friends to enjoy the music of a person that I think is talented, then I should have the right to do that. It is my home after all. I feel as if I am living in a world that is way beyond "1984" and it scares me.