International Municipal Lawyers Association - Local Government Blog

Drop that Head of Cabbage, Mister, and Step Back from Your Cultivator with Your Hands in the Air

September 20, 2010

Posted By: Dwight Merriam, Robinson & Cole, LLP

DeKalb County, Georgia, can teach us all something about zoning enforcement.   The zoning enforcement authorities cited Steve Miller for growing too many vegetables on his 2-acre lot in a residential zone.  Actually, it’s not that he was growing the vegetables; it was that he was selling them at an off-site farmers’ market, you see, because that makes it a commercial activity.  Isn’t there some federal law about transporting zucchini over county lines for the purpose of illegal sale?

Says Miller: “It’s a way of life, like it’s something in my blood,” County Cites Farmer For Too Many Vegetables.

He ultimately got his property rezoned to allow the illegal veggies, but he’s still in the hole $5,000 in fines.

Our crack investigative team tracked down the actual citation:

Here is that miscreant, Steve Miller, in a head shot you’re likely to see soon on the post office wall.  I mean, look at him – would you trust him with a site plan approval or even a 2-foot side yard variance?

Courtesy of The Covered Dish, (“A Guy, A Garden And An Anti-Veggie Zoning Code,”

And here’s the evidence, clear proof of his illegal activities and egregious flaunting of the rule of law:

Here is even more damning evidence unearthed by WSB-TV.  The county peppered Steve Miller with its proof of the violation.


The crime scene is here (I’m surprised they didn’t have the SWAT team with those police helicopters and their powerful lights at this harrowing event…):

And finally, from our friends at after getting the exact address from, we have this shot of the unspeakable horror:

You can bet your prize winning pole beans that if there is a CSI Atlanta they’ll be able to help nail the next crazy man who thinks he can get away with this kind of crime, right in front of the neighbors.  Actually, the neighbors apparently like it: “When he moved here and I found out what he was doing I said, ‘Steve, you’re the best thing that ever happened to Cimarron Drive. And I still say that,” said neighbor Britt Fayssoux.

-ette, tu, National Flood Insurance Program

March 2, 2009
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Posted By: Dwight Merriam, Partner, Robinson & Cole

Pull out your Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, a most authoritative source, and look up

“–ette”. It is a noun suffix and comes from the French, feminine diminutive suffix, from Old French –ete. Definitions are: 1 : little one <kitchenette> 2 : female <farmerette> .

This usage has invaded our vocabulary in many ways. Take “dinette”, for example, which appears to have been coined in 1925 to describe “a small space usually off a kitchen used for informal dining”.

I knew the suffixation of –ette to things important and trivial had reached full entrenchment when “Smurfette” appeared as the first female character of the Smurfs in 1966. An enemy of the Smurfs created her from clay to cause trouble among the Smurfs. I know, TMI – Too Much Information. Click here if you want more details.

Here she is, courtesy of


Land use practice necessarily involves flood control, including flood hazard mitigation under the National Flood Insurance Program. And flood plain management necessarily involves – you know what comes next – FIRMs – the Flood Insurance Rate Maps, which show 100-year flood plain elevations (those are the floods that actually occur every few years it seems), floodways, Special Flood Hazard Areas, and so forth. Here is a good tutorial that can make you look like you know what you’re doing when you have a FIRM spread out in front of you.

So guess what recently came across my desk? You can take your FIRM and make a FIRMette !

Yes, folks, make your very own FIRMette by using the government’s new software to extract data from the on-line FIRM. Click here to see how you do it.

But why would you care to make FIRMettes, other than they may make dandy free gifts for family and friends? Because that cabinet full of FIRMs that you had is going to fade away starting October 1, 2009, when FEMA will stop distributing paper copies of the FIRMs. Click here for more guidance. Click here for the tutorial.

Starting on October 1, you will only be able to get FIRMs digitally on-line or on CDs and DVDs as a FIRM Scan (that’s FIRM Scan not FIRM Scam).

Now, if you just hit print, since each Firm Scan is an entire enormous FIRM, your printer will do something bad and maybe you’ll end up with 43,562 8 ½ x 11 inch sheets, I don’t know.

What you will have to do if you don’t have a large-format printer is make a bunch of FIRMettes. Have fun.

I tried it for my own backyard after skipping the tutorial (it’s a guy thing, like not asking for directions). Just find your FIRM using a street address. Then it took a couple of minutes to download the FIRM, even though we have a lot of bandwidth. Don’t try this on dial up.

The FIRM Scan has a button “Make FIRMette”. First, I zoomed into my backyard. You can use the “Zoom Win” button to outline a window you want to make as your FIRMette. That took a minute or so. It showed a nice enlargement. And then I clicked “Make FIRMette” and got this, which is the whole FIRM Scan (unreadable for you, I know) and not the enlarged area (guess I will have to read the tutorial):


You can get a high level of detail out of these maps. Here’s a cut and paste of our elementary school and my house, safely out of the floodplain….


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This blog is made possible by the International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA), but may include guest bloggers (who are attorneys with experience in local government matters) who might or might not work for IMLA. Their views (and those expressed on this site) do not necessarily express the views of IMLA.