Dallas Denies Ross Avenue Mechanic Permit to Keep Shop in Business

It came down to a broken promise.

Hinga Mbogo is hoping to keep his Ross Avenue auto repair shop in business.
Hinga Mbogo was hoping to keep his Ross Avenue auto repair shop in business.

Despite a DC-based libertarian nonprofit drumming up national media attention for his cause, Ross Avenue mechanic Hinga Mbogo was denied a special-use permit to stay in business two more years at that location despite his 30-year-old auto shop operating outside zoning guidelines for the neighborhood that were set nearly 11 years ago.

A parade of neighbors, mostly residents of Bryan Place and mostly in opposition to Mbogo’s request, addressed the Dallas City Council before the vote this afternoon. Speaking on behalf of Mbogo were representatives of the Institute For Justice, who claimed to have collected 80,000 signatures in support of him. They also declared that the decision today was being watched by observers across the country, including the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which wrote today that Dallas is driving out long-time businesses to “make way for hipsters.”

Nearly every member of the council who spoke expressed sympathy for Mbogo’s rights as a property owner, particularly Erik Wilson, Jennifer Gates, and Lee Kleinman, all of whom voted against denying the permit.

But Councilman Philip Kingston, who represents the area where Mbogo’s shop sits, made the case that today’s vote should center upon the deal that Mbogo made himself three years ago when requesting a similar SUP (which was approved). Kingston played a clip from a 2013 council meeting in which Mbogo gave assurances that he wouldn’t ask for another extension to stay put if the council granted his request at that time.

Council members Scott Griggs and Adam Medrano indicated that broken promise weighed heavily in their decisions to join Kingston in denying the permit.

Ultimately the vote wasn’t all that close to giving Mbogo what he wanted. It was 8-5 in favor of denial. For the SUP to have been issued would have required a three-quarters vote in favor, in order to override the City Plan Commission’s prior denial.

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