Mutt & Jeff began frying up swine skin in big vats back in 1976. And since 1983, the pork skin plant has been on Sylvan Road in East Point.
But an East Point City Council zoning change may push Mutt & Jeff, and dozens of other businesses nearby, out of the area.
The new zoning, approved by the City Council Oct. 7, allows for mixed-use residential developments, hotels, churches, shops, banks, restaurants and other things that are "primarily pedestrian and public transit-oriented," the zoning ordinance says.
In other words, the city's smart-growth policy is creating a new twist on gentrification. Instead of poor people being run off by an influx of well-to-do homesteaders, business owners are the ones being shown the door.
Scaff's business won't be forced to close or move because any company with a current business license is grandfathered in, but to Scaff, that's not the point.
He rents out 16 warehouse and storage spaces between 600 and 2,000 square feet in size to others who won't meet the zoning requirements. A potential renter was denied a business license because the business he wanted to open didn't meet the new zoning requirements.
Now the space sits empty and Scaff is missing out on what once was a reliable source of income. If other tenants are rejected -- and they likely would be because the space he rents out isn't ideal for retail operations -- Scaff will be struggling to pay his property taxes because his income will decline as property assessments in the area continue to rise.
Scaff also says none of the businesses in the area knew about the zoning change until after the City Council approved it.
Scaff was one of the first to learn about it, and he only learned when his potential tenant's business application was shot down.
The overall message, he says, is to pack up the pork rinds and go someplace else.
"Part of the bad feelings is the history of having been here so long," Scaff says.
Four other plaintiffs are suing the city in two separate lawsuits.
One of the lawsuits, filed by two companies (Sylvan Road LLC and Sylvan Road 223 LLC) that rent out warehouse and industrial space to tenants, ask the Fulton County Superior Court to undo the zoning change.
"We base that [request to go back to the original zoning] on some Georgia cases that say when a property owner purchases a property and invests a substantial amount of money in reliance on its current zoning, that a municipality can't go and essentially down zone the property," says the attorney for that case, Josh Archer of Meadows, Ichter and Bowers.
Archer says his clients' tenants have also been refused business licenses because of the new zoning.
East Point City Attorney David Couch says he's received warning that a third suit is on the way.
The clash's origins date back to December 1999, when East Point received a smart-growth grant to develop a citywide master plan. That plan calls for the redevelopment of certain areas, including the Sylvan Road corridor that is home to Mutt & Jeff's.
At the same time, East Point was, in the words of Councilman Alex Prince, "undergoing quite a bit of a renaissance."
"People are moving back in, redoing homes and spending quite a bit of money on their property," says Prince, who represents the area where the rezoning occurred.
Right next to the rezoned area is Jefferson Park, a neighborhood that's filling up with people who want a nicer, cleaner ambiance. But businesses in the area have done nothing to improve their image, Prince says.
He says the chain link fences and Mack trucks backed up to loading docks are eyesores in the minds of East Point's newer residents.
The ball is now in the city's court. The lawsuits have prompted the City Council to rethink the zoning in the area. It won't rescind the new zoning and go back to light industrial, but council members are contemplating a compromise.
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