By Joe Beck
FRONT ROYAL -- Television celebrity and congressional candidate Tareq Salahi is back in court.
Salahi filed a lawsuit June 17 in Warren County Circuit Court asking a judge to overturn a decision by the Board of Supervisors that denied him permission to rent out his residence at 440 Scenic Overlook Drive in the Mosby Estates subdivision.
Salahi's lawyer, James I. Gilbert IV of Moneta, said in an interview that the central issue in the case is whether the county can block Salahi from renting the property to tourists and vacationers over 21.78 square feet -- the amount of additional space Salahi would have to own to gain the right to rent the property without seeking a conditional use permit from the county.
The lawsuit complaint states that the county's agricultural zoning district allows for the leasing of property for short periods of time if the property is more than 5 acres. A conditional use permit is required if the property is 5 acres or less. Salahi's property is 4.9995 acres, according to the lawsuit.
A period of less than 30 days constitutes a short-term tourist rental under county ordinances.
"He's literally about 25 square feet short of being able to rent his property by right," Gilbert said of Salahi. "That's the whole point of the lawsuit. It just doesn't make any sense that a difference of 25 square feet is harming the health, safety and welfare of the general public."
Warren County Attorney Blair Mitchell said he had seen the lawsuit but would not comment until "we do our reply in the pleadings within a couple of weeks.''
The Board of Supervisors voted to deny a conditional use permit to Salahi on May 20 after some of his neighbors objected to his proposal. They cited worries that Salahi was planning rentals to large groups that would disrupt the neighborhood with college fraternity-style parties.
Salahi, who has been mired in several court cases in recent years spawned by financial and marital troubles, told the supervisors he needed to rent the four-bedroom, five-bathroom home to keep it from falling into foreclosure.
"As a result of making ends meet, it is necessary for me to rent the house to vacationers and tourists alike," Salahi wrote in a statement filed with the county Planning Commission.
Salahi gained national attention in 2009 when he slipped into a White House state dinner with his former wife. He ran for the Republican nomination for Congress in the 10th District earlier this year and is now running as an independent in the 7th District.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org