Pianist Lorie Line is known for her elaborate concerts in theaters and auditoriums. But when she started hosting recitals this summer at her Orono home on Lake Minnetonka, some neighbors complained to the city about extra traffic in the streets and the lack of regulation.
Line and her husband, Tim, who have lived in Orono for nearly 30 years, say the concerns are overblown and that their house is not being turned into a concert hall. When the city denied them a permit for paid performances, the couple decided to get around it by hosting four free parties last month.
Now, with city leaders planning to discuss its events policy in the next couple months, Line said she’s put plans on hold for 15 recitals in 2017 at her home, a multimillion-dollar house overlooking a secluded bay.
“I don’t see how you can say you can’t play music in your home,” Line said in an interview before a sold-out concert Thursday night in Luverne, Minn. “I mean, it’s piano music. It’s not an amplified thing.”
The controversy has prompted officials in the affluent suburb to review how it regulates private events, such as large parties, if they affect traffic or public safety. City Council members say that regulations need to be better defined.
“It’s high on the [City Council’s] priority list,” said Jeremy Barnhart, Orono’s community development director. “The idea there is to protect the residential character of neighborhoods and make sure occasional special events don’t impact that.”
Excelsior requires a special event permit for residential events, such as a wedding at home, that may increase traffic and noise levels. Golden Valley, which revised its policy this year for more clarity, regulates events that affect traffic or are open to the public.
But Line said her stay-at-home recitals in Orono should be treated no differently than any private gathering. Some neighbors maintained that she was holding public events and selling tickets online, but she said the recitals were akin to fundraisers she’s held at her home in years’ past that had drawn no complaints.
“It affects everybody that gives private events in their home,” Line said of the city policy. “This is where we share our music. It’s the most stupid thing I’ve heard.”
Bringing shows home
The Lines, who are on tour in the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, said they followed Orono’s permit requirements for about a dozen recitals they held this summer. The hourlong performances, followed by cake and coffee, were held indoors and drew about 40 friends, family members and “super fans.”
The couple said that at first they used a limo service to bring people to the show, then turned to two vans to shuttle the audience from an off-site location.
“There wasn’t one car on our street,” Line said. She added that, after years of traveling 80 days annually, it’s a relief to perform at home.
In August, when the couple started planning their 2017 recitals, they were told they needed a “home occupation license” because the indoor recitals were scheduled to go later than 7 p.m. They told the city they would be selling tickets for events drawing no more than 40 people a night on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
“You’d think we’d be bringing over people from all over the country … and that’s not the case,” Tim Line said. “We just want to have concerts at our home like musicians are doing all across the country. … We’re not doing anything illegal.”
But the City Council in September denied their license application, citing frequent rental equipment trucks, four shuttle buses and the resulting noise, which city leaders said didn’t fit in a residential neighborhood and especially around the Lines’ narrow dead-end street.
“It’s a classic, small neighborhood,” said Council Member Lizz Levang, who voted to reject the Lines’ application. “It’s a business operation because they are making money. That crossed over the line to me.”
As a result, the Lines said in November that they won’t charge admission for private parties. As a result, they don’t need a home occupation license and would no longer violate Orono’s special-event policy, which regulates events drawing more than 20 cars.
Barnhart said there was nothing the city could do except step up police patrols for parking or traffic safety. No violations have been reported at the Lines’ recitals, he added, but the issue demonstrates that Orono needs to clarify what qualifies as a special event.
“The code doesn’t address all the [loop] holes,” said Council Member Dennis Walsh, who also voted against the Lines’ permit.
Lorie Line said she thinks the controversy has been driven by turbulent politics in Orono and local concerns that have been sensationalized.
“We’re bringing goodwill to people,” she said. “Why can’t we share music in our home?”