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Smith: Since the city put dibs on his land

You'd hope City Hall would bend over backward to allow George Dib to move his 30-year-old Santa Rosa Avenue used-car lot a mile and a half to the north.

After all, Dib, a diligent and genial immigrant from Lebanon, enjoyed running his lot at the busy corner of Santa Rosa Avenue and Kawana Springs Road — until eminent domain forced him to sell to the property to the city, and vacate.

City Hall has for years now had big street-improvement plans for that intersection, near the Target store.

It pained Dib, 69, to move Dib's Auto Sales off that corner. He'd paid off the mortgage and business was good.

Today he operates the business on temporarily leased land a few blocks south. And he wants to purchase the property up at Santa Rosa Avenue and Maple Street long occupied by Bob's Travel Center, a recreational-vehicle lot.

That land's owner, Bob Montgomery, would love to sell it and see it become the new home of Dib's Auto Sales. Montgomery is 76 and he's more than ready to sell the property and retire.

But Santa Rosa's Community Development Department said no to the deal. Dib can't move his business to where Bob's Travel Center has operated for 20 years, the agency says, because it believes a used-car lot would generate more traffic and noise than the existing RV lot.

Both George Dib and Bob Montgomery dispute that. The issue will be decided by the city Planning Commission at the meeting that starts at 4 p.m. Thursday.

If planning commissioners side with city staff on this one, let's hope that first they'll look deep and make sure that law and the evidence justify devastating the owners of Dib's and Bob's.

IN PETALUMA IN 1912 everybody knew James Mott.

The city's first professional fireman, he and Black Bart, the horse that pulled the fire wagon, were equally beloved throughout Petaluma, then a city of about 6,000.

On Oct. 20 of 1912, Mott was among the city firefighters who responded downtown to an automobile fire. The car exploded and sprayed burning gasoline onto Mott, five other firefighters and about two dozen civilians.

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