Dave Chappelle seeks more outdoor shows
- Published: April 25, 2022
A request to allow another ticketed series of summertime outdoor shows to be hosted by comedian Dave Chappelle at the Wirrig family’s pavilion, just north of the village, will go before the Miami Township Board of Zoning Appeals, or BZA, on Thursday evening, April 28.
Venue owner Steve Wirrig filed an application March 21, seeking a temporary conditional use variance for the property situated between U.S. 68 North and Meredith Road and abutting Young’s Christmas tree farm. The official address is 4866 U.S. 68, while the entrance to the pavilion is off Meredith.
The variance is needed because the land is zoned for agricultural use, and the proposed activity is commercial in nature, according to Miami Township Zoning Inspector Richard Zopf.
The new request seeks a setup similar to the one approved by the BZA in summer 2020 that resulted in 54 evening shows, presented over a 15-week span, featuring performances and appearances by a revolving slate of high-profile comedians, musicians and celebrities.
However, that series, conducted during the pandemic lockdown, proceeded with stringent COVID-19 protocols approved by the governor’s office. With most coronavirus restrictions now lifted, organizers of the new series hope to increase the number of seats per show from the previous 400 to 1,000, according to the conditional use application.
Other specifics of the new temporary usage request include potential dates, show times and the proposed parking arrangement.
The application seeks to present a maximum of 24 shows from May 26 through Sept. 5, with no more than four shows in any given week. Performances would not take place on Sundays, except when there is a three-day holiday weekend where the holiday falls on Monday; potential Sunday dates thus would be May 29, July 3 and Sept. 4.
In an effort to limit the traffic on Meredith Road as well as the adjacent Mosier Road, where some neighbors expressed concerns in the past about performance-related traffic and noise, parking would be limited to 200 patron cars. Other ticket holders would be transported to the site by commercial bus from a local parking area or areas.
On-site patron parking would begin at 5 p.m., with the pavilion gates opening at 7:30 p.m. Shows would end by 11 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and by midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Event staff and security would have additional access to the property for set up and breakdown.
As in the past, the shows will be professionally produced, staffed and managed, according to the conditional use application. Organizers also plan to have up to four licensed food trucks on hand each performance night. Restroom facilities also would again be provided.
The April 28 hearing will be Wirrig’s fourth time seeking the BZA’s approval of a temporary conditional use request in order to present Chappelle’s shows at the pavilion. The first was for the summer 2020 series, with a specified end date in early October that year. The second was to extend the initial request for a full year, as is permitted in the zoning code. The result of the extension was a limited run of shows in spring 2021, as venues across the country began reopening, which allowed Chappelle to begin touring again.
Wirrig has yet to be turned down by the BZA, but the five-member board was divided in its decision concerning his last request, voting 3–2 Sept. 23 to allow four additional shows over an unspecified weekend this past October. Board member Dave Neuhardt voted in favor of the proposal, but warned Wirrig that he was not inclined to entertain further requests to grant a zoning provision that is meant to be temporary. BZA member Barbara Krabec said at the time that she felt similarly. Linda Parsons and Geoff Garrison cast the dissenting votes, citing concerns among some neighbors. Board Chair Richard Silliman voted in favor, saying he thought the shows provided economic and cultural benefits to the area. Despite the majority approval, the October shows didn’t take place, and Chappelle was on tour, including an extended run in England, for most of the month.
In a letter to the editor (see page 4 of last week’s edition of the Yellow Springs News), Steve Wirrig writes that the hearing occurred too late to put the shows together. He is also critical of a perceived delay in scheduling the new hearing. The News reached out to Zoning Inspector Zopf for comment and learned that he is on a planned trip out of the country and is not available to meet until the last week of April.
The latest application emphasizes the economic and cultural impact of the 2020 shows.
“The shows garnered national and international attention and were lauded as the standard for safely conducting comedy and entertainment shows during the pandemic,” the application states, adding that guests and patrons from more than 40 states attended the performances, spending money on food, lodging, shopping and recreation while they were here, and putting millions of dollars into the local and regional economy.
The application also notes that the summer series was the subject of a documentary by locally based Emmy and Academy Award winning filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert that has been seen by more than 500,000 people. The film recently had an extended local run at the Little Art Theatre.
“While Mr. Chappelle could be conducting shows at mass theaters around the world, he would like to conduct this limited string of shows to further honor his community and continue the positive impacts to Miami [Township] and the surrounding area through additional economic benefits and national attention,” the application states.
The April 28 BZA hearing will begin at 7 p.m. in the community meeting room at the fire station on the corner of Xenia Avenue and East Herman Street.