Judge denies Salahi time to change lawsuit

FRONT ROYAL – A Warren County homeowner plans to take his property rights case to the Supreme Court of Virginia after a judge denied him a second shot.

Tareq Salahi, who once crashed a White House event and has vied for political offices, sued the Board of Supervisors for denying him a permit to rent his home in the county to tourists on a short-term basis. Salahi sought to overturn the board’s decision.

At a hearing in Warren County Circuit Court on Wednesday, Judge Ronald Napier stuck with his previous decision to essentially dismiss the case. Salahi appeared with his attorney, James Gilbert IV, who had filed a motion for reconsideration.

During the short hearing, Gilbert argued Wednesday that he had submitted enough facts to support Salahi’s case and that the court should grant the plaintiff leave to amend the complaint.

Assistant County Attorney Dan Whitten had filed the demurrer that Napier granted in mid April and dismissed the case.

Minutes from last year’s board meeting in which supervisors denied Salahi’s request were submitted into evidence. Both sides contend that the minutes bolster their arguments.

Napier said that he reviewed the case again, information that each side submitted, as well as the meeting minutes, which he said helped him reach the decision to grant the demurrer.

Gilbert said the county lacks the right by state code to prevent a homeowner from renting to tourists. The county created an ordinance that allows it to permit such property uses with conditions. But Gilbert said that issues cited with short-term rentals, such as traffic and noise, could happen at any residence. Gilbert said that two incidents that sparked concerns from neighbors were not related to short-term tourist rentals. Gilbert described the gatherings as a Super Bowl party and a campaign function.

Supervisors voted last year to deny Salahi’s request for a conditional-use permit that would allow him to rent his home at 440 Scenic Overlook Drive to tourists on a short-term basis. The action came after property owners in the Mosby Overlook Estates subdivision complained that Salahi’s renting of the house, without a permit, to large groups had increased traffic, noise and attracted parties through marketing as an “Animal House” type venue.

Gilbert also called the board’s decision to deny Salahi’s request for a permit “arbitrary and capricious.”

Salahi said after the April hearing that he plans to continue renting his home to tourists despite the judge’s decision.

Gilbert said he plans to file a notice of appeal and then seek to have the Supreme Court of Virginia consider his request.

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