A small business owner, Hinga Mbogo, is the latest victim of government abuse, as the City of Dallas plans to kick him off his property without paying for it. Although most Texans are familiar with eminent domain, few know that citizens remain vulnerable to being forcibly re-zoned off their property and out of business.
This alarming practice is known as “amortization,” and is even worse than the use of eminent domain, since it doesn’t require cities to provide “just compensation” for landowners forced off their property.
It essentially allows a city to make zoning alternations to force “non-conforming” businesses out of business, by coercing them to sell their property to new developers who have cut a deal with city officials.
Even worse, because potential buyers know the property owner is being forced to sell, affected owners only receive low ball offers for their property.
Following the infamous Kelo v. New London decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005, the State of Texas amended its constitution to protect landowners from being forced to have their property transfered to private developers. Voters passed the amendment with 81% in support.
Unfortunately, that protection did not prevent governments from creating their own “non-profit” companies and funding projects themselves in the name of economic development, as we’ve seen with Fort Worth’s Trinity River Vision boondoggle.
It also did nothing to prevent cities from re-zoning property owners out of business, as is the case with Hinga Mbogo. Other “non-conforming” landowners in the re-development zone have already left the area, leaving much of the surrounding property vacant. But Mbogo says his business is still successful, with many loyal customers living in surrounding neighborhoods.
“When I found out I had to lose my livelihood…I couldn’t believe that I was in America,” said Mbogo, who immigrated to the United States from Kenya over 30 years ago.
The location of his business is critical to its success—it’s not simply a parcel of land.
The City of Dallas has already earned a questionable track record when it comes to common sense and integrity. From enacting unlawful bag-bans, to adopting ever-increasing property taxes, to enabling a crippling debt crisis fueled by bloated pension obligations, city officials already have big problems to address.
Unless citizens defend Mbogo by protesting the land grab, reprehensible economic development schemes that sacrifice successful businesses in favor of politically connected developers will continue unabated in Texas.
The Institute for Justice has stepped in to defend the rights of Mbogo, who has repeatedly tried to independently resolve his dispute with the city. The matter is set to come before the Dallas City Council on Wednesday, April 13th, at 1:00pm. Citizens are organizing a rally and press conference in support of Mbogo the morning before the meeting, at 11:30am.