Concert at Four Seasons Total Landscaping almost shut down by neighbor zoning complaint
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Instead of holding a press conference to undermine the results of a presidential election, the Four Seasons Total Landscaping parking lot in northeast Philadelphia is now home to a few hundred people for a different reason: a live music concert.
The show with punk rocker Laura Jane Grace from Florida with an opener by Chicago singer Brendan Kelly sold out within 17 minutes of the announcement on July 8th.
But it almost closed before it even started.
The day after the show was announced with glowing national coverage from publications like Rolling Stone, The Hill, Pitchfork, and Variety, an anonymous Philly resident filed a complaint with the city’s Licensing and Inspection Department to put an end to the whole idea to put.
Over a month later, an L&I inspector paid Total Landscaping a visit and shared the news with Sean Middleton, Total Landscaping’s sales director:
You have not applied for a permit, the inspector announced, so you cannot hold this event.
“I was concerned,” said Middleton, a 35-year-old Bucks County native who is also the person behind the brand’s disrespectful Twitter account. “You’d think the city wouldn’t make it so difficult given the positive press.”
Tweet from @LauraJaneGrace
With the sold out concert less than a week away, it suddenly seemed in danger.
“We thought we got the right event permit,” Middleton told Billy Penn. He and his colleagues, business owners Marie and Mike Siravo, have already alerted Councilor Bobby Henon’s office and the 15th Police District, he said. “We wanted everyone to pay attention.”
After much back and forth, he was able to work through the regulations together with the local authorities and clarify the situation.
“We’ve made all the right arrangements, we’re doing all the prep work, puncturing our Is and crossing our Ts,” said Middleton on Thursday. “The permit is in our window. The event has now been blessed by the city, we will say. “
He described port-a-potties lined up for concert-goers and new stones being laid everywhere. At the gates that open at 12 p.m. for the 1 p.m. show, Eventbooker Dave Kiss Productions will check vaccination cards and ask people without masks to hide. A security service was hired and a construction plan was presented to the city.
It all came together with the help of Councilor Henon’s office, Middleton said, crediting them for helping convince the city to keep the show going.
The initial problem? In order to hold such an event in Philadelphia, the property owner must obtain an “installation and maintenance permit”, according to city spokesman Kevin Lessard. But as noted in the Anonymous Neighbor’s complaint, this type of permit is not allowed in the 1-2 zone district, which includes Total Landscaping’s address at 7339 State Rd. L&I has the power to issue temporary building permits, Lessard said, but there are a number of documents that need to be submitted along with a formal application.
In the end, Ralph DiPietro, Commissioner for Licenses and Inspections, made a special exception for Total Landscaping himself – although he also made it clear that this will no longer happen.
“This is considered a one-time exception,” said city spokesman Lessard. “If you want to hold follow-up events, a building permit and, if necessary, a special assembly permit are required.”
Organizing other events is not part of Four Seasons Total Landscaping’s plans anyway.
“We’re not interested in becoming a venue,” said Middleton, noting that hosting the concert turned out to be a bit costly. They love all the positive press, but the 28-year-old company’s focus remains on commercial landscaping. “We have a pretty nice core business that we earn money with.”