Eric Bernheim's legal practice includes real estate, zoning, land use and litigation matters. He has represented numerous municipalities in a number of different issues ranging from election law disputes to land use and real estate related matters. Also, he has participated in the successful representation of complex land use and zoning applications from the initial planning process through the conclusion of any appeals. His practice also includes the representation of numerous landlords and tenants with respect to their leasing and landlord/tenant issues. His clients range from municipalities, financial institutions and property management groups to small business owners and individuals.
Eric represents numerous banks and other financial institutions in a wide variety of transactions including, the closing of commercial loans, and foreclosures. He provides counseling to financial institutions in numerous legal issues that may arise during the lending process and assists in litigation matters pertaining to closely held businesses, real estate, land use and zoning appeals, and real property disputes. Additionally, Eric is certified as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Associate (LEED Green Associate). As a LEED Green Associate, Eric advises clients on the rapidly emerging green building industry and assist in evaluating and navigating the LEED certification process, including LEED credits, credit interpretation requests, appeals, and efforts to incorporate LEED into local zoning codes.
LEEDing the Green Home Initiative: Will Local Zoning Incentive Support Growth?
New England Real Estate Journal, 07/20/2012
In 2008, the U.S. Green Building Council (the USGBC) launched a green home certification program known as LEED (or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Homes. One goal of the USGBC is to transform the way homes are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves quality of life. However, very few new homes are being built green. According to the National Association of Home Builders, in 2011 there were over 602,000 housing starts. A housing start is defined as excavation (ground breaking) for the footings or foundation of a residential structure. Although not all housing starts are seen through to completion, most are. From 2008 through 2011, the National Association of Home Builders reports 2,655,600 housing starts. Since launching LEED for homes in 2008, the USGBC has verified 20,000 LEED homes. When comparing 20,000 LEED certified homes to the 2,655,600 housing starts between 2008 and 2011, the numbers are disturbingly imbalanced.
LEED for homes certification ensures that the newly constructed home is energy efficient and environmentally friendly because it is verified by an independent third party. A LEED certified home is awarded points towards its certification by implementing methods to conserve energy, reduce water use, and improve indoor air quality. In addition, LEED awards points for utilizing a site that will further smart growth principles by choosing locations in close proximity to community resources and transportation. Points are also awarded for avoiding previously undeveloped or environmentally sensitive sites. The project will also be awarded points if the project team chooses its materials and resources carefully, giving priority to locally produced and salvaged materials. It is also imperative to utilize products that will assist in the reduction of toxic fumes emitted by paints, stains, and adhesives in the home. The most important step in building a LEED certified home is the design and budgeting stage. By assembling a project team knowledgeable about green building techniques and the LEED certification process, goals can be established that will keep the builder within the allotted budget.
A common misconception is that building a green home will cost more than building a non-green home. There is no significant difference in average costs for green buildings as compared to non-green buildings. According to the USGBC, over 50% of LEED certified homes also qualify as affordable housing, which clearly demonstrates that energy efficient and environmentally friendly homes can be constructed while staying within a strict budget that is profitable even with affordable housing restrictions placed on those homes.
In my opinion, the only explanation for the imbalance between green and non-green homes is that contractors believe building green will cut into their profit margin, which is similar to concerns contractors had in the past with affordable housing projects in Connecticut. However, the Connecticut legislature has now persuaded Connecticut contractors to pursue affordable housing projects in the State by providing incentives that shift the permitting process in their favor.
Until certain affordable housing thresholds are satisfied, the Connecticut General Statutes 8-30g affordable housing incentive permits developers to propose an affordable housing project in any zone within the municipality, and it may be turned down only if it presents a risk to the health and safety of the public. In an 8-30g application, the burden of proof is on the local Planning Commission to explain why such a development should be turned down rather than on the developer to prove that it complies with local regulations. Section 8-30g has been extremely successful in increasing the number of affordable housing projects throughout the State.
It is not necessary to go as far as the legislature did with C.G.S. 8-30g, because a green home in the neighborhood is not likely to attract the same opposition as an 8-30g affordable housing proposal. However, if local zoning regulations were to relax their often stringent coverage, setback, story, and height restrictions for green home construction projects, then more and more developers would consider building green homes. Once a developer builds its first green home, they will likely discover that a green home can be constructed for the same cost as a non-green home.
It took almost four years for LEED to certify its 20,000th home, but with local incentives aimed at relaxing zoning restrictions which already cut into a builder's profit margin, the number of green homes is certain to increase rapidly.
News & Events
Halloran & Sage LLP Announces New Partners
The law firm of Halloran & Sage LLP is pleased to announce that Joseph Jay Arcata, III, Eric D. Bernheim, Matthew S. Necci, Jaimee Z. Newman and Allen Gary Palmer have been admitted as partners.
Joseph Jay Arcata, III is a member of the Firm's Litigation & Dispute Resolution and Insurance Practice Groups. He received his J.D. from Quinnipiac University School of Law and his B.A. from Providence College. Jay also serves on the Board of Directors of Hartford's Camp Courant.
Eric Bernheim is a member of the Firm's Corporate Business & Transactions, Land Use, Litigation and Real Estate Practice Groups. He is also certified as a LEED Green Associate. He received his J.D. from Roger Williams University School of Law and his B.S. from Ithaca College.
Matthew Necci is a member of the Firm's Litigation and Workers' Compensation Practice Groups. He received his J.D. from New York Law School and his B.A. from the University of Connecticut. Matthew also serves on the Special Olympics of Connecticut Board of Directors.
Jaimee Zuboff Newman is a member of the Firm's Corporate Business & Transactions and Real Estate Practice Groups. She received her J.D. from Suffolk University Law School and her B.A. from the University of Michigan. She is a frequent contributor of articles to the New England Real Estate Journal.
Allen Gary Palmer is a member of the Firm's Divorce and Family Law Practice Group. He received his J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and his B.A. from the University of Connecticut. He is the Region 1 Representative for the ABA Family Law Section Council and the current Vice-Chair of the CBA Family Law Section.
Halloran & Sage LLP is a full service law firm with offices in Hartford, Danbury, Middletown, New Haven, New London and Westport, Connecticut, and a branch in Washington, DC. Founded in 1935, the Firm's client base ranges from Fortune 500 companies to closely held businesses, institutional and private investors, governmental units, public and private universities, and other non-profit organizations.Eric Bernheim testifies on CBA bill to Connecticut General Assembly
Eric Bernheim, a member of the Connecticut Bar Association's Planning & Zoning Section provided testimony in support of House Bill Number 6481, An Act Concerning Enforcement Protection for Nonconforming Structures (the Bill), to the state general assembly's Joint Committee on Planning and Development.
The Bill, which was drafted by Lawrence Weisman and Bernheim in light of a relevant case matter, is a proposed revision to Connecticut General Statutes 8-13a(a), and will provide the same protections to structures as are currently afforded by 8-13a(a) to buildings.
Bernheim contended that a critical reason why this revision is necessary lies in its ability to mitigate excessive fees incurred by a homeowner. He cited an example to the committee where a property owner had a pool constructed twenty-five years ago. Unbeknownst to the property owner or the contractor who built the pool, it violated the setback requirements of the local municipality. When that property owner sought a new zoning permit for an unrelated project, it was discovered that the pool encroached on the setbacks and the Town, twenty-five years after construction, required that the setback violation be corrected.
Had the pool instead been a building, such as a shed (an enclosed structure with four walls and a roof), 8-13a(a) would have rendered it a pre-existing nonconforming location and no enforcement action could be successfully taken by the municipality. Nothing further would need to be done.
Because an unenclosed structure is not presently protected by 8-13a(a), property owners are subjected to expend a great deal of money to comply with the municipal regulations even if it has been in place for more than three years. In order to come into compliance with such a structure, the property owner must either obtain a variance of the municipal regulations to legalize the location of the structure, relocate the structure, or remove it entirely. Obtaining a variance requires that the specific lot have an unusual hardship so that complying with the subject regulations would be unreasonably difficult. Accordingly, obtaining a variance will not always be an option available to property owners, which is why the Bill is necessary.
The proposed H.B. 6481 is currently pending action within the Planning and Development Committee, and the committee must act no later than March 27 to adopt this bill for passage to the House of Representatives for vote.Eric Bernheim Certified as LEED Green Associate
Eric Bernheim, an attorney at Halloran & Sage was recently certified as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Associate (LEED Green Associate). As a LEED Green Associate, Eric is able to advise clients on the rapidly emerging green building industry and assist in evaluating and navigating the LEED certification process, including LEED credits, credit interpretation requests, appeals, and efforts to incorporate LEED into local zoning codes.
The LEED Green Building Rating System promotes global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices by creating and implementing universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria. LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. LEED addresses all building types emphasizing state-of-the-art strategies in: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials and resources selection, locations & linkages, awareness & education, indoor environmental quality, innovation & education and regional priorities. The LEED Green Associate is a professional designation for those who have demonstrated a thorough understanding of green building techniques, environmental issues, the LEED program and the certification process. The LEED credentials show differentiation in a growing and competitive industry. Eric demonstrated a comprehensive knowledge of sustainable building practices and the LEED Green Building Rating System and passed the LEED Green Associates exam. (Resident, Westport)