Dwight Merriam's blog

Dwight Merriam is a lawyer representing developers, local governments, landowners, and advocacy groups in land development and conservation issues.

Yellow Ribbons Banned On Town Green

The display of yellow ribbons in remembrance of friends and family serving far away goes back hundreds of years. Dr. Gavin Finley has an interesting website on the history. The American Folklore Center at The Library of Congress has more intriguing history and also cites the 1949 John Wayne and Joanne Dru film, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.

Backyard Burials

I am prompted to report on this issue I came across in a news item last week. A Baptist minister in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, buried his 18-year-old son, who died three days after a car crash on July 12, in the backyard of the pastor’s church. While state law doesn’t prohibit this, some county and local ordinances do, and this county, Fayette County, only allows burials on large parcels zoned for agricultural use. The church has only five acres and is in a residential zone.

Cause of the Housing Bubble, Burst and Recession Revealed: It's Growth Management

Those of us whose professional lives are inextricably linked to the real estate development economy in one way or another have had plenty of time in the last year to twiddle our thumbs and attempt to figure out what the heck happened. This much we know — there was a housing bubble some places, it burst, and the economy collapsed. Have you ever slipped and fell – one those unexpected spectacular aerial feats where your feet fly out from underneath you, you look down your legs and see your toes at eye level pointing to the sky, and you say to yourself “this is really going to hurt when I land”? That’s what this year has been like for many, some of whom are still waiting to hit hard because they had projects in the pipeline and they are grinding their way through “inventory” of unfinished work. Plus, we started from a high plateau. Wall Street types call the unexpected but apparent life in the market during the first part of a recession “dead cat bounce” which Forbes defines as “a temporary recovery from a prolonged decline or bear market, after which the market continues to fall.” Even a dead cat dropped from a very high place will bounce a little when it hits the ground…

Don't Bogart That Joint, My Friend

"Don't Bogart That Joint, My Friend"

Lyrics: Lawrence Wagner
Music: Elliot Ingber

(on the soundtrack of "Easy Rider")

Chorus
Don't bogart that joint my friend
Pass it over to me
Don't bogart that joint my friend
Pass it over to me

Roll another one
Just like the other one
You've been holding on to it
And I sure will like a hit

[chorus]

Roll another one
Just like the other one
That one's burned to the end
Come on and be a real friend

[chorus]

Marijuana is prescribed for certain medical conditions, such as pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation. Since 1996, at least 13 states have legalized the sale of medical marijuana.

Now, check your zoning regulations and see what districts allow this land use: "Retail Sales – Medical Marijuana." Couldn’t find it, right?

An Udder Failure...

A couple of weeks ago, the South Dakota Supreme Court in Anderson v. Town of Badger held that a town had the power to grant a waiver of a distance requirement set by Kingsbury County for a CAFO. Click here for the decision.

Wait a minute. Why wouldn’t you want to live near a CAFO? What’s a CAFO? It’s not Community Association Facility Operations. It’s not Centralized Area of Fun Outside …no, it’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, something akin to dinner time at my fraternity house in the mid-1960s…

RLUIPA Ripeness Rule Reinforced

The concept of ripeness in several realms is elusive. I have never figured out how to properly thump a melon at a grocery store, although I have made a thorough study of it. You might want to click here, or here, or here for some guidance, none of which seems to work when it’s just me in a stare down with a cold, stone faced and silent honeydew.

Just yesterday one of my younger children from what we call the “second litter” asked me at dinner how I could tell if a coconut was ripe. I paused, realized that I had no answer, and did what every good parent should do and asked instead why they weren’t eating their salad. Yes, attack and divert.

You think melons and coconuts are tough — try ripeness in land use litigation.

What Happens When an Irresistible Force Meets an Immovable Object

The unstoppable force paradox is an exercise in logic that seems to come up in the law all too often. There is a Chinese variant. The Chinese word for “paradox” is literally translated as “spear-shield” coming from a story in a Third Century B.C. philosophy book, Han Fiez, about a man selling a sword he claimed could pierce any shield. He also was trying to sell a shield, which he said could resist any sword. He was asked the obvious question and could give no answer.

The Washington Supreme Court broke the paradox between a 12-month moratorium during which the City of Woodinville considered sustainable development regulations for its R-1 residential area, and the efforts by the Northshore United Church of Christ (Northshore Church) to host a movable encampment for homeless people on its R-1 property. City of Woodinville v. Northshore United Church of Christ (July 16, 2009).

Sorting Out Sonia Sotomayor

According to the Washington Post, 62% of Americans think Sonia Sotomayor should be confirmed for the U.S Supreme Court because she is “about right” ideologically. The question is, how good will she be for municipal attorneys?