The man who hosted a meeting of white supremacists in his Lancaster Township barn nearly two years ago has withdrawn his name from a zoning appeal of an affordable housing development at 213 College Ave. in Lancaster city.
Charles Bausman’s withdrawal came Tuesday, after LNP|LancasterOnline asked the other six residents in the appeal about his initial inclusion. Bausman owns a home on West Chestnut Street in the city.
The 213 College Ave. proposal from Lancaster-based nonprofit developer HDC MidAtlantic is widely believed to be the first new affordable housing construction in Lancaster city since the 1970s.
The $15.4 million plan includes 64 apartments for households making between $11,000 and $40,000, 12 of which will be reserved for people with physical disabilities.
The appeal claims that the Lancaster city Zoning Hearing Board did not produce supporting evidence for its decision to grant its zoning approvals to the 213 College Ave. project.
HDC’s attorneys have argued residents filed their appeal too early, before the zoning board was due to produce an official written reasoning for their approval.
Jay Rosenthal, an appellant who has organized the effort, said in an email earlier this week that Bausman’s views are reprehensible. Bausman’s West Chestnut Hill home is next door to Rosenthal’s.
In April, Rosenthal defended his decision to invite Bausman to join the appeal, which was filed in February. “Fortunately or unfortunately, he’s a neighbor of mine, and I keep the peace with him because there’s a lot of shared expenses” to maintaining his townhouse that shares a wall with Bausman’s.
When asked about Bausman’s background, Rosenthal said, “It’s really irrelevant in my opinion, quite frankly. He’s a resident; he’s a taxpayer.”
Charles Bausman, whose family traces its presence in Lancaster County to the 1700s, took up …
Bausman hasn’t returned to his West Chestnut Street home at least since the development’s zoning approval in January, according to Rosenthal, and Bausman previously told LNP|LancasterOnline that he went to Russia sometime in January 2021. Bausman did not respond to a phone message seeking comment.
He also hasn’t paid his taxes. According to Lancaster County’s property assessment website, Bausman is delinquent on his taxes from last year on both his Lancaster Township property and his West Chesnut Street home, totaling more than $21,000.
Rosenthal and several other residents named in the appeal told LNP|LancasterOnline that Bausman had contributed money to the effort’s legal expenses, which was split evenly between them, they said.
Bausman’s extremist history
LNP|LancasterOnline last year revealed details of a gathering of the "National Justice Party,” an avowedly racist and antisemitic group, whose members helped organize the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Bausman hosted the 2020 gathering at a Lancaster Township property he owns.
Bausman himself may not be as well-known or high-profile as others in extremist circles. But through a debonair appearance and calm demeanor, he has peddled ethnonationalist and deeply antisemitic messages online to English-speaking audiences and spread disinformation and pro-Putin talking points on state-controlled TV in Russia, and through English-language venues, like the Kremlin-funded Russia Today network.
In the alt-right movement in the U.S., Bausman gained praise for a 2018 essay that argues he and others should not shy away from saying a Jewish global elite is somehow orchestrating world events – a conspiracy theory and antisemitic trope that has endured in Europe and elsewhere for centuries.
Bausman has even rehashed 100-year-old antisemitic propaganda that a Jewish cabal was responsible for the Russian Revolution in 1917, another patently false claim. Such propaganda helped to fuel antisemitic sentiment and the rise of fascism in Europe that eventually led to the Holocaust, which Bausman has denied ever happened, despite the overwhelming historical record.
Zoning appeal group reacts
Suzan Matos, another appellant, said she was “baffled” when she first learned Bausman was included in the legal effort. Joel Eigen, another neighbor in the appeal, called Bausman “a loathsome person.”
When Rosenthal asked Bausman if he wanted to join the appeal, he wasn’t aware of his next-door neighbor’s background, Matos said. “It was a misunderstanding” to include him, Matos said.
Another appellant, Peter Xenias, said he didn’t want a white supremacist to be part of the appeal.
“I didn't even know the guy had a place on our street," Xenias said.
Michelle LaGrassa-VonNieda said in a text that Bausman’s role in the zoning appeal should be ignored.
"This has absolutely nothing to do with the project or our appeal,” LaGrassa-VonNieda said.
A group of the nation's most notorious white nationalists met secretly at a historic Lancaster Township barn in 2020 to create the National Justice Party. They had help from the Holocaust denier and pro-Kremlin blogger who owns it.
One appellant, Beth Bathe, did not respond to a request for comment.
It's unclear where Bausman is currently, but Rosenthal said Bausman has a wife and two children living in Russia. When Bausman spoke with LNP|LancasterOnline last fall, he was in Moscow; social media posts from earlier this year showed he was still in Russia.
"He spends a lot of time there, but that’s all I know,” Rosenthal said.
Most foreign journalists have fled the country since Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law there that blocked access to Facebook and major foreign news outlets. It also threatens anyone spreading “false information” about the Ukraine invasion with up to 15 years in prison.
Since then, one of Bausman’s websites in April published an article called, “12 Reasons for Christians to Avoid All "Peace" Demonstrations Concerning Ukraine,” imploring American Orthodox Christians to refrain from protesting Putin’s invasion.
White nationalists embrace Russia
Bausman’s promotion of both pro-Putin propaganda and the white nationalist movement in the U.S. may have seemed strange in the past, but no longer.
“White nationalists today have somehow picked up on Russia as being some kind of white racial utopia, and there has been actually quite a lot of organizing in white nationalist circles of the celebration of Russia as some kind of model for the future,” said Paul Hannebrink, a Rutgers University history professor who studies antisemitism and nationalism in Europe.
As a West Chesnut Street resident with a home near the 213 College Ave. development site, Bausman is entitled to participate in a zoning appeal or other legal actions afforded to any Lancaster resident.
But that doesn’t mean individuals and communities can’t hold Bausman accountable for his views, according to Kurt Braddock, a professor at American University who studies extremism and white supremacists.
“I think one of the ways that people can demonstrate their displeasure would be to refuse money from somebody like this,” Braddock said.
Bausman is entitled to his beliefs, Braddock said. “But I do think there needs to be repercussions for these kinds of things, because these kinds of beliefs, they lead to negative repercussions, they lead to things like what happened on Jan. 6,” referring to the Capitol insurrection, where Bausman was spotted.
Video footage of Bausman inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 surfaced online after the event. He told LNP|LancasterOnline last year he was there as a reporter.
“Those repercussions in some cases, they can be social – being ostracized, being shunned, being ignored, these kinds of things, these are recourses people can take to a) kind if punish him socially for those positions and b) limiting his influence in the community, which I think is just as important.”
In response to Braddock’s comments, Rosenthal called Bausman’s views reprehensible, but did not indicate the group would return or refuse any money from Bausman.
“Mr. Bausman contributed only a fractional share of the costs, as one of the many homeowners challenging” the HDC MidAtlantic project, Rosenthal said in an email.
In a May filing before Bausman’s withdrawal, an attorney for HDC argued that Bausman and three other appellants should be taken out of the appeal, since they weren’t at the January zoning meeting, where residents can be officially recognized as part of the hearing.
A hearing before Common Pleas Judge Margaret C. Miller regarding the zoning appeal is scheduled for June 7.