Town Votes Down Affordable Housing After Dave Chappelle Threatens To Pull Business

Chappelle said he was "not bluffing" about pulling his businesses in Yellow Springs, Ohio, if the city council passed a proposal for more affordable housing.
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Comedian Dave Chappelle threatened to pull “millions of dollars” from the Ohio town he lives in if an affordable housing proposal passed city council. The proposal failed.

“I am not bluffing,” Chappelle told city council members before a vote. “I will take it all off the table.”

Yellow Springs City Council voted 2-2 on Monday against its own planned proposal that would have expanded affordable housing, the Dayton Daily News reported. The proposed development on the 53-acre area would have included 64 single-family homes, 52 duplexes and 24 townhomes and almost two acres for future affordable housing. Instead, the area will feature 143 single-family homes with a starting price of $300,000, according to the Dayton Daily News.

Though the city council appeared in agreement with the proposed plan last July, opposition from residents in Yellow Springs led to Monday’s decision to scrap the affordable housing. Among the most vocal in opposition was multimillionaire Chappelle, who has plans to open a restaurant and comedy club in the Yellow Springs area. Chappelle also has an office downtown.

“I cannot believe you would make me audition for you,” Chappelle told city council members before Monday night’s vote. “You look like clowns. I am not bluffing, I will take it all off the table. That’s all, thank you.”

Chappelle previously threatened to pull his businesses back in December if the proposal went forward.

“I just want to say I am adamantly opposed to it,” Chappelle told city council members over video chat. “I have invested millions of dollars in town. If you push this thing through, what I’m investing in is no longer applicable.”

Chappelle never specified what, exactly, he didn’t like about the new housing plan in his public complaints to city council. The comedian’s publicist, Carla Sims, told HuffPost in a Thursday statement that he isn’t against affordable housing, but against a “poorly vetted, cookie-cutter, sprawl-style development deal which has little regard for the community, culture and infrastructure of the Village.”

Marianne MacQueen has been on the city council for nine years and voted in favor of the new proposal. MacQueen told HuffPost she asked Chappelle specifically about his complaints, but didn’t get an answer.

“I have asked him at the last two council meetings to please tell us, how is this development negatively impacting your business interests?” MacQueen said in a Thursday phone call. “Please tell us that. But he hasn’t.”

MacQueen added she doesn’t think Chappelle is against affordable housing in general, and that he may have raised concerns in “invitation-only meetings” that she wasn’t a part of.

MacQueen does, however, believe the proposal failed because of Chappelle’s influence on the town.

“There are younger people, and especially people who’ve moved in more recently, who are pretty enamored of Dave and don’t want him to pull [his business] out and are apparently willing to do his bidding,” she said.

Asked why she thinks Chappelle called her and her city council colleagues “clowns,” MacQueen said the mostly liberal town has seen the same sort of divisiveness that has seeped into the national discourse.

“There are very few Republicans in Yellow Spring, but nonetheless, we have become so divisive that we engage by fighting with each other and ... the role of social media has exacerbated it,” MacQueen said. “And then we have a powerful, wealthy person who’s able to pull strings and impact that divisiveness and the democratic decision-making, and it’s eroding our representative democracy, mirroring what’s happening in the country at large.”

This story has been updated to include comment from Chappelle’s publicist, as well as an interview with Yellow Springs City Council member Marianne MacQueen.

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