A 30-year-old Ross Avenue auto repair shop was ordered closed by the Dallas City Council Wednesday 11 years after the city rezoned the street to forbid auto repair.
Hinga Mbogo had been granted two previous extensions on a 2010 deadline to close, and he returned to City Hall Wednesday with new supporters in his latest request to keep Hinga Automotive open.
"I feel like the city, by passing this kind of law, is denying my right to make a living and denying my employees to even work with me," he said.
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The Washington D.C.-based Libertarian group Institute for Justice sponsored an online petition that received more than 82,000 signatures, around 1,700 of them from Dallas, a group leader said.
The group rallied with other Hinga supporters outside City Hall before the afternoon meeting.
"We've taken this case today because we believe it is one of the most pressing property rights abuses going on this country," said Institute communications director J. Justin Wilson.
Supporters speaking at the City Council meeting were opposed by neighbors of the auto repair shop who said Mbogo has not abided by his promises.
City Councilman Philip Kingston, who represents the neighborhood, played a video from the last session years ago where Mbogo promised to close by now.
"The fervor that's been stirred up around this issue can only be maintained by willfully ignoring the facts," Kingston said.
Since the 2005 rezoning, new development has sprung up on Ross Avenue making Mbogo's property more valuable. A large new apartment complex has replaced another automotive business that used to be across the street from Hinga. Another old garage nearby has been renovated as a coffee shop. A bar is about to open in another old building down the street.
Kingston said Mbogo is still free to sell his property or make an allowable use of the present building.
"No one is taking his property away," Kingston said.
But Bill Maurer, managing attorney with the Institute for Justice, said a lawsuit against the city is another option.
"That's what we do," Maurer said. "We go to places and represent people and do activism on their behalf when they can't afford to fight city hall."