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Board denies Salahi's request to rent home

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- A Warren County man who once crashed a White House party with his former wife can't let tourists crash at his pad.

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to deny Tareq Salahi's request for a conditional-use permit after attorneys delivered a fishing net full of so-called "red herrings." Neighbors told the board that the home in Mosby Overlook Estates hosts "Animal House"-style parties and draws undesirable visitors and traffic.

Manassas attorney David Silek's gave a 20-minute opening argument on behalf of Salahi. Silek also represents Salahi in a civil lawsuit filed against him by the homeowners association. Silek called the association's claim that Salahi violated the neighborhood's restrictive covenants a "red herring." The covenants were recorded in the courthouse after the previous owner of the home bought the property, Silek said.

Salahi, who bought the home in 2006, has said he needs to rent the home as a way to help pay off the mortgage and keep the property from falling into foreclosure and hurting home values. Other homes near his have gone into foreclosure. Salahi tied his request to the protection of property-owner's rights.

"Most importantly allowing owners to rent out their houses reaffirms the principles on which this country was founded, including the very concept of both liberty and property ownership," Salahi said.

Front Royal attorney J. Daniel Pond III represents the association and spoke on behalf of the group. Pond pointed out that Salahi has run the rental home for months against the rules of the covenants and claimed the homeowner has not paid any fees or taxes related to the business operation. Pond also argued Salahi's business did not constitute a residential use of the property.

Salahi's neighbors claimed the traffic to and from the home has damaged Scenic Overlook Drive into the subdivision. Silek said the homeowners association did not make an effort over the past few years to fix the road, even after settling a claim with Salahi over damage to his vehicle.

Association President Travis Frantz said he took exception to claims the group does not take care of the roads. Frantz told the board the association has photographs of large, multi-passenger vehicles driving to Salahi's home.

Frantz said the homeowner's association would be held liable if a tourist coming to Salahi's business had an accident on the road. Silek argued that the association could be liable if any visitor came to the neighborhood.

Association Vice President Robert Hunter pointed out that, prior to the Tuesday hearing, the website for Salahi's business advertised the home as a place for "bachelor and bachelorette parties" and other events for large groups of people.

"This looks more like 'Animal House' than a traditional bed-and-breakfast," Hunter said.

Happy Creek District Supervisor Tony Carter made the motion to deny Salahi's request, citing the concerns raised by residents about the impact such a business could have on the neighborhood.

The homeowners association is fighting Salahi's efforts. Judge Dennis L. Hupp denied the association's request for a temporary injunction against Salahi but has not ruled on other parts of the group's complaints. Silek pointed out during the hearing that a short-term rental home exists near Salahi's neighborhood off Va. 55.

Shenandoah District Supervisor Richard Traczyk voted against the motion to deny the request after suggesting that the board delay action until after the judge rules on the association's case.

Silek told reporters after the vote that he plans to appeal the board's decision to the Warren County Circuit Court.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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