Hays

Neighbors sue each other over wedding venue in Hays County

HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) - The owners of more than 12 acres of land in Hays County, who were recently sued by their neighbors over their occasional use of the house they built as a wedding venue, filed a lawsuit of their own this month against those same neighbors.

A judge ruled last October that Jani and Shon Saliga were allowed to keep renting out their home between Buda and Dripping Springs to host weddings. The couple filed a lawsuit this month against the neighboring property owners who sued them, alleging the neighbors are intentionally disrupting weddings held there.

Jani Saliga told KXAN she originally bought the land and built the home for her and her husband to retire to, and it wasn't until real estate agents suggested it could be a venue that the pair turned it into Garden Grove.

"We live here, I cook here, my kids are here on a very regular basis," Saliga said. "We've done less than 20 weddings since we opened -- 20 weddings in two years."

"It doesn't matter how many they're having," Greg George, one of the neighbors, told KXAN. "They shouldn't have any. Every one of them is an inconvenience."

George, who has two young kids, lives on the property directly east of the venue. The houses are separated by about 100 feet and a privacy fence, and George said he can hear live music echoing from the backyard during ceremonies, as well as professional fireworks shows late into the night.

He was one of the neighbors who sued the Saligas to stop them from hosting weddings, saying that restrictions in the property deed prevented them from operating the business. 

But Judge Bill Henry of the 428th District Court ruled against George and the other neighbors, saying that when Saliga bought her property in 2006, the seller was mis-identified in documents, and, therefore, the deed restrictions were outside of the chain of deed and did not apply.

Further, the judge ruled the venue wouldn't violate the restrictions anyway, since the Saligas use the property primarily as their home, the venue operates on an appointment basis and does not have employees, and because the noise they generate stays within the legal bounds. 

George and the others who sued are appealing the decision.

"We don't have a lot of noise or loud music here," Saliga said. "We monitor it like crazy."

That's not how George sees it. Videos he's taken on his phone show the view from his back porch with music heard coming over the privacy fence between the properties. Other videos show fireworks displays he says run late into the night. 

Saliga said they've had nine minutes of fireworks, total, since they opened in 2016, and they wrap up before 11 p.m. Now she and her husband are suing George and the other neighbors, saying after last year's ruling, they've started intentionally disrupting weddings in an attempt to ruin them.

"I'm living my life on my property with my private property rights," George said of the allegations.

In the lawsuit filed at the beginning of April, the Saligas say their next-door neighbor runs lawn equipment on the shared property line during ceremonies and blared mariachi music over speakers aimed toward the venue while a bride was walking down the aisle.

George told KXAN he's not intentionally ruining the weddings, just doing yard work when it's convenient for him. "When I come out here and I enjoy my property with my family and have a party, and my music is under 85 decibels, all of a sudden I'm the bad guy, I'm doing something wrong?" he said. "No."

"Any noise, any time they mow their grass or I mow my grass, you're going to hear it," he said. "And then they come at me with a lawsuit saying that I'm a nuisance and I'm ruining their business because I mow my yard or I listen to music with my family."

Other neighbors, the lawsuit alleges, have screamed obscenities at wedding guests and at one event, shook a load of dirt from a piece of machinery over the fence, blowing it onto guests.

The Saligas are asking the judge to stop their neighbors from what they see as interfering with their business.

"I just wish that our neighbors would go live their lives," Saliga said.

George says that's exactly what he's trying to do. "This is Texas. This is America," he said. "You can't go out and mow your grass on a Saturday afternoon?"

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