County close to selling cluttered property

By Joe Beck

FRONT ROYAL — Warren County and a homeowner’s association inched closer Monday to forcing a Linden resident to surrender her house and three acres of land as compensation for unpaid bills.

Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp agreed to the appointment of attorney J. Daniel Pond III to oversee the sale of Julia Souter’s property at 471 Apple Jack Circle. Hupp’s decision came at the end of a three-hour bench trial, one in a long series of legal battles waged between Souter and the county since 2007 over debris in her yard.

Along the way, Souter has served two jail sentences after refusing to comply with court orders that she bring her yard into compliance with a county ordinance governing the maintenance of residential property.

Assistant County Attorney Daniel Whitten said Monday after the trial that Souter owes the county and the Apple Mountain Lake South Property Owner’s Association a combined total of $38,000. Whitten said Souter owes about $30,000 for two county-financed cleanups of her property — one in 2007 and another in 2011 — and about $7,000 or $8,000 in unpaid dues to the Apple Mountain HOA. She also owes a smaller sum in unpaid fines stemming from criminal cases filed against her, Whitten said.

“Basically, the county just wanted the money we expended,” Whitten said. “We wanted that money back because it was taxpayer money used to pay for the cleanups.”

Whitten said Souter still has 30 days to appeal the outcome of Monday’s trial to the Virginia Supreme Court. She will have to provide $40,000 — the combined amount of the liens on her property — as a bond if she appeals, Whitten said.

Whitten said an expert witness retained by the county has concluded that debris strewed about Souter’s yard and a roof caving in on part of the residence make the property unsuitable for rental.

Whitten said he hopes a new owner can be found to clean up and maintain the property.

Souter represented herself at the trial and was unavailable for comment.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or