Dallas—Today, Hinga Mbogo and the Institute for Justice announced that they will seek review from the Texas Supreme Court of the Texas Court of Appeals’ decision that dismissed Hinga’s property rights lawsuit against the city of Dallas. The case, which has played out for the last two years, challenges Dallas’ illegal attempt to shutdown a beloved auto mechanic shop so that the city can make way for the city’s preferred businesses, such as chain restaurants or coffee shops.
The lawsuit challenges a practice known as “amortization”—which is a type of retroactive zoning—whereby the city unilaterally changed the zoning for Mr. Mbogo’s property, forcing him to shut down and move his long-standing, previously legal business from property he owns. The practice has been compared to eminent domain abuse, which is illegal in Texas, except unlike eminent domain, in this case Dallas hasn’t compensated Mr. Mbogo a single cent for the harm it has caused him and his business.
“Although we’re understandably frustrated with the lower courts, we remain confident that the Texas Supreme Court will recognize the clear injustice at play in Dallas and rule that retroactive zoning is a violation of the state constitution,” said Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Bill Maurer. “Texas prides itself on a long tradition of respecting property rights, but this case shows that municipal governments here can be as hostile to business owners as cities anywhere else in this country. What Dallas has done to Hinga is an affront to anyone that believes in private property.”
Hinga’s problems with the city began in 2005, when Dallas changed the zoning along Ross Avenue to make operating an auto mechanic shop illegal. The city gave Hinga a certain amount of time to close up shop to make way for the city-approved businesses. But Hinga fought the city’s attempt to push him out for businesses favored by city planners for the past 13 years. In April 2016, his time ran out when the city denied his request to stay for an additional two years where he built his business.
In denying the specific use permit, Dallas City Councilman Rickey Callahan, a real estate developer, explained his vote, saying:
“[S]ometimes when you have a proliferation of these auto-related businesses, you’re not going to get national-accredited tenants come in like Starbucks, Macaroni Grill or nice sit-down restaurants and so forth. They’re not going to spend a million dollars or two million dollars to be next door.”
Watch the exchange here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iY2sfH3S_m4
Tens of thousands of people have rallied in support of Hinga. An online petition on Change.org has been signed by more than 92,000 people. The petition states that using “zoning laws to destroy small businesses is wrong.”
Hinga has vowed to continue this battle, not just so that he can continue to operate his business on land he has owned for decades, but also to make sure that nobody else must suffer an ordeal like the one he has. “I came to Texas because I thought it was a place where I could build my business and earn my share of the American Dream. I will keep on fighting until the Texas Supreme Court vindicates the right to operate a business on land you own.”
IJ Attorney Ari Bargil concluded by saying, “For decades, this harmful practice has been permitted by the Texas courts. We are taking this issue to the Texas Supreme Court so that court can put an end to this abuse and give real meaning to the protections of the Texas Constitution.”