Lawsuit dismissed; Salahi plans appeal

FRONT ROYAL — Tareq Salahi, who once crashed a White House state dinner, vowed Thursday to keep battling Warren County in the courts after a judge dismissed a lawsuit Salahi filed against the Board of Supervisors.

Salahi said he would appeal the decision by Circuit Judge Ronald Napier to the Virginia Supreme Court.

Napier’s ruling ended for now Salahi’s effort to overturn a decision by the Board of Supervisors to deny him a permit that would allow short-term rentals to tourists at his home near Linden. Salahi has 30 days to appeal after which he could rent again to tourists, at least until the Supreme Court decides whether or not to hear his case.

“We’re going to appeal,” Salahi said after talking with his attorney for about half an hour after the hearing.

Salahi has incurred the wrath of neighbors in the Mosby Overlook Estates subdivision who have complained that his house at 440 Scenic Overlook Drive has increased traffic, diminished privacy and been marketed as an “Animal House” type getaway suitable for bachelor and bachelorette parties, weddings and other large gatherings.

Salahi’s attorney, Jordan Sharpes, contended that the board’s denial of the permit sought by his client was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable, but Napier quickly rejected those arguments.

The county, represented by Assistant County Attorney Dan Whitten, filed a pleading called a demurrer, which sought dismissal of the case.

“The court finds the county’s position well-stated, and the demurrer to be sustained,” Napier said after hearing arguments from both sides.

Salahi said he plans to continue opening his house to tourism rentals, despite Napier’s ruling. He said the home is booked through the summer and for much of the fall.

“As far as I’m concerned, everybody who’s booked, they’re booked, and it’s too late to say no to them,” Salahi said.

Whitten said the county would not try to prevent Salahi from renting out the home if he follows through on his plans to appeal Napier’s decision.

Whitten said the county is more interested in whether Salahi pays taxes he owes the county from renting out the house. The transient occupancy tax equals two percent of what Salahi charges for renting a room per night, Whitten said. The money so far has been held in escrow.

“We would just ask him to turn over the transient taxes,” Whitten said of Salahi. “He’s holding those taxes for the county, so he needs to pay those.”

Salahi has a turbulent and colorful past. He first drew national attention when he crashed a White House state dinner with his wife, since divorced, in 2009.

Appearances on several reality TV shows and a bitter divorce in 2012 followed. The divorce involved Salahi’s wife, Michaele, abandoning him for Neal Schon, a guitarist with the rock band Journey.

Since then, Salahi has run as a write in candidate for governor and for Congress as a Republican without attracting much support in either campaign.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com