Chappelle shows granted extension
- Published: November 12, 2020
In a vote of 3–1, the Miami Township Board of Zoning Appeals on Wednesday evening , Nov. 11, approved a request to extend the timetable for performances hosted by Yellow Springs-based comedian Dave Chappelle at a rural property just north of the village.
The series of ticketed shows, which began in early June and ran for four months — as allowed by a temporary use variance for the agriculturally zoned property — may now continue until Aug. 6, 2021.
Property owner Steve Wirrig requested the extension, asking that the temporary use variance, which was originally approved Aug. 6 and ended Oct. 4, be granted for the full 12 months that the zoning code allows.
Submitted as a “request for modifications” to the original temporary use application, the request also sought a change to the perviously approved limit on the number of events from no more than four a week to no more than 18 a month.
The shows, billed this summer as “An Intimate Socially Distanced Affair,” and familiarly referred to as Chappelle’s “Summer Camp,” welcomed a revolving slate of nationally known comedians and musicians to appear wth the award-winning entertainer at an outdoor pavilion that Wirrig and his wife, Stacey, built in 2017. The venue is located on land situated between U.S. 68 North and Meredith Road and bordering Young’s Christmas tree farm near the border of Greene and Clark counties.
Nearly 190 people logged in Aug. 6 for the original public hearing conducted by the Board of Zoning Appeals, or BZA. Most of the approximately 40 people who testified during the proceedings spoke approvingly of the events, citing economic benefits to the area and the need in this difficult time amidst a pandemic for the entertainment and safe social experience they provided. Those expressing issues with the shows cited noise levels during the performances, increased traffic and litter by show patrons. But even those with concerns said they didn’t necessarily want the events shut down, just for their concerns to be addressed.
In contrast, just slightly more than 20 people participated in Wednesday evening’s public hearing conducted by the BZA through the GoToMeeting online conference platform. Among those on the call were BZA members Barbara Krabec, Geoffrey Garrison, Dave Neuhardt and Richard Silliman, who served as acting chair; and Miami Township Zoning Inspector Richard Zopf. BZA Chair Cathy Balas was not in attendance. Also present were Elizabeth Ellis, from the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office, providing legal advise to the township; and Wirrig and his legal representative David Montgomery, who chairs the real estate department with the Dayton-based Pickrel, Schaeffer and Ebeling law firm. It was unknown whether Chappelle was also on the conference call, though several anonymous callers were listed. During his opening remarks as host of the nationally televised “Saturday Night Live” program last weekend, he said he had listened in, though unidentified, during the August hearing.
Zopf reported Wednesday that he had received five written comments before the new hearing. Three opposed approving the modifications and two were in favor of continuing the shows as requested.
One letter, submitted by a resident of neighboring Mosier Road, stated that there are more appropriate settings for the shows than an area populated by farming families and other residents. The neighbor’s letter suggested Neuhardt’s Whitehall Farm, where Chappelle has hosted several of his “Juke Joint” events, and Chappelle’s own rurally situated home just south of the village limits, as alternative locations.
The letter also took umbrage with comments Chappelle made during his “SNL” opening that targeted the pavilion property’s neighbors who had concerns about noise and amplified profanity during the shows. The jokes were “extremely offensive” and portrayed local residents as “ignorant rubes,” the neighbor wrote.
Six people, all locally based, gave spoken testimony. Only one expressed opposition.
“As a resident of Meredith Road, my preference would be that no amplified events be allowed at Wirrig Pavilion,” the neighbor said. Highlighting the negative impact of the late-night noise on her sleep and health, the speaker said she also recognized that the events were welcome relief for many. She wondered if a compromise might be made, with the shows starting earlier in the day, so as to end no later than 10 p.m., as well as by limiting the number of events from four a week to two or three and by capping the number of ticket holders to 200, half of the current limit.
Speaking in favor of Wirrig’s request was Village Manager Josué Salmerón, who said that the shows this past summer “had a positive impact on the economy and the culture of Yellow Springs.”
He also noted that the Wirrigs and Chappelle “have done a great job to put in safety measures” related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Asked by the BZA’s Silliman if he could offer any examples of local economic benefits, Salmerón said he didn’t have specific sales figures, but he had been told anecdotally by business owners that they were helped through the patronization of Chappelle fans coming into town for the shows. Lodging tax revenue also remained steady throughout the summer and didn’t “take a hit” from the pandemic as expected, the Village manager said.
Dino Pallotta, owner of Dino’s Cappuccinos coffee house, said his business had benefitted.
“It’s been a very good year for us having Dave do the shows,” Pallotta said. “It’s allowed me to keep all of my employees employed through the summer.”
The BZA members were mixed in their responses. Having conducted their August deliberations in executive session, they proceeded with their discussion Wednesday evening in the public format.
Garrison noted that he had been opposed in August to allowing four shows a week, but technology issues hindered his participation in that meeting, and the other board members were left unaware of his opinion.
He said he was hesitant to approve the newly made modification request as well.
“I don’t think they have done enough to make the neighbors comfortable,” Garrison said.
Krabec also said she was inclined to deny the request, expressing the belief that the BZA’s original ruling concluding the events in early October should stand and that asking for modifications was “inappropriate.”
Silliman said that as a small business owner, he favored the action, as he felt the events helped the business community. He also noted the prestige the shows had brought to the area with the positive attention by nationally known figures.
Neuhardt, too, said he was inclined to approve the request, though he was “a little disappointed” that it hadn’t offered “any sort of compromise.”
Garrison said he could support the extension if the show organizers agreed to end performances by 10 p.m., and the number of shows was limited to no more than three a week. His suggestions were not picked up, however, by the other board members. Krabec said she was willing to compromise and agree to the extended timetable if the number of shows was kept at its originally approved limit.
Zoning Inspector Zopf noted that the requested change from four shows a week to 18 a month represented only a slight difference in total monthly shows while offering the presenters flexibility in the case of inclement weather or other unforeseen circumstances.
Krabec said she disagreed, and thought that keeping the previous limit in place while approving the extension request offered a workable compromise.
Neuhardt moved that the board adopt Krabec’s suggestion, and Silliman seconded.
The three all voted yes, with Garrison casting the opposing vote.
Chappelle’s plans for presenting more shows was not disclosed, if known. Zopf noted that cold-weather months are unlikely to include any performances.