able to open up his own shop in 1985.
That business, Hinga’s Automotive Company, is located in Dallas and has been hugely popular among locals for three decades (seriously, check out these Yelp reviews!).
So all’s well that ends well, right?
Wrong—if the city of Dallas has anything to say about it (emphasis added):
[T]hanks to a little-known zoning tactic known as “amortization,” the Dallas City Council is trying to remove Hinga from his own property. Back in 2005, the council re-zoned Hinga’s neighborhood for a “planned development district.” Any properties that were “nonconforming” with the new zoning designation had a limited amount of time to comply. For Hinga, that would mean closing down his business. …Despite strong protections against the abuse of eminent domain, Texas has failed to safeguard homes and businesses from amortization. Back in 1972, the Texas Supreme Court upheld amortization, ruling that it “does not constitute a ‘taking’ in the eminent domain sense,” but instead fell “within the scope of municipal police power.” With only one justice dissenting, the court held that “property owners do not acquire a constitutionally protected vested right in property uses once commenced or in zoning classifications once made.”Meanwhile, any “compensation” comes from owners recouping their investment in their property during the amortization period. In other words, the government doesn’t have to pay Hinga a dime to kick him off his property.
While Mbogo has been able to convince the city planners to extend their doomsday plans twice—at the cost of $7,500 in one case—he’s not out of the woods yet. And because potential buyers know he’s under the gun to sell thanks to the rezoning rule, Mbogo is getting lowball offers that aren’t enough to relocate his business or fund his retirement in a few years.
“I got bad offers [from developers] because they thought I was desperate from pressure,” he explains.
Today, Hinga’s Automotive Company is the only functioning business left in its neighborhood, and Mbogo has enlisted the aid of the Institute for Justice (IJ), a libertarian law firm that fights against exactly this kind of government abuse:
Dallas is also violating the U.S. Constitution, which requires the government to give “just compensation” to property owners whose property it takes. The city is not compensating Hinga whatsoever, even though it is effectively taking his property through amortization.Hinga’s shop poses no risk to public safety, health, or welfare; instead, it provides a vital service to the Dallas community.Dallas officials aren’t only taking away Hinga’s business; they’re stealing the American dream from someone who worked incredibly hard to achieve it.
“When I found out I had to lose my livelihood,” Mbogo says, “I couldn’t believe that I was in America. I left a place where that stuff happens—but not here. This is the land of opportunity.”
Unfortunately, this kind of cronyism and trampling of individual rights has become very American indeed.