Commentary: Is business destined to wither on vine?

The Front Royal Board of Supervisors’ leadership is uncertain which direction to take: should they favor (a) business, (b) tourism, (c) homeowners’ rights, or (d) all or (e) none of the above? Unfortunately, based on the board’s most recent decisions, it appears they might lean toward option (e) at the expense of (d), all of the above: business, tourism and homeowners’ rights.Recently, this same board announced that renting out one’s own private property is subject to outright prohibition here in Warren County, leaving many homeowners troubled by the haziness surrounding their real estate investments. Washingtonians who purchased homes in High Knob, Mosby Estates and other Warren County localities — estates to which these government employees and contractors will one day retire to, but which in the interim can be rented out to help cover the cost of the mortgage — have been told to stop renting out their homes, leading to burdensome litigation that taxpayers will have to fund.To date, I  and many other similar property owners in our community have been renting out our multi-acre properties in Front Royal to families and friends visiting my beautiful neighborhood to enjoy hiking, local wineries and canoeing. In the process, I send them to shop at local markets, eat at local restaurants and fill up their cars at local gas stations. Many of my guests have expressed interest in purchasing real estate in our community, but upon learning of the county’s harsh regulations, they quickly abandon those dreams and instead opt for property in adjoining towns and counties.

Thus, in the process of crushing homeowners’ rights, the Board of Supervisors is also squelching Front Royal’s main industry: tourism. In a local economy such as Warren County’s, where Kmart used to be sitting empty and Dick’s Sporting Goods has announced its intent to not enter a community that over-regulates businesses, this board should be doing everything in its power to increase business and tourism — not drive it away.

Like countless others, I again find myself a victim of both my state and local governments’ inability to communicate with each other. Years ago at another business I owned, I faced a similar situation and solved the problem by helping to rewrite Virginia’s laws, returning power to the state after local government overstepped its authority in over-regulating small business. However, when I recently approached my friends at the Virginia legislature to ask for help in protecting homeowners’ rights, I was told that they can’t pass a bill for something that already exists — i.e. the freedom to rent out one’s own property!

Today, I will again face the Warren County Board of Supervisors in my uphill fight to protect not only my rights, but the rights of all local property owners, businesses and tourism agents here in Front Royal. What might seem like a small local matter will have a ripple effect on others: boutiques, restaurants, zip line parks, canoe rentals, breweries, wineries and so on. I fervently hope that the circuit judge will protect those individual freedoms for which our founding fathers fought — many of whom were proud Virginians who risked everything, even death, for their rights, which are now our rights, as both Virginians and American citizens.

Our nation’s capital might be an hour’s drive east of Warren County, but next week, our community will serve as the forefront of the battle for individual freedoms. If you’re a fellow homeowner and care about protecting your rights, I encourage you to be concerned.

The fate of business, tourism, real estate and any property owners, as well as the various industries here in Front Royal, hangs in the balance and I hope that my beloved Warren County does not wither on the vine as it appear to be on track with the evident for sale signs scattered throughout the communities, abandoned shops and a community clearly in desperation.

Tareq Salahi is a Warren County resident.