Name: Danielle Bercury
Title: Senior Associate, Brenner, Saltzman & Wallman LLP
Age: 37
Experience: 10 years


Danielle Bercury helps developers navigate the permitting puzzle when proposing commercial and multifamily projects. Bercury joined New Haven-based Brenner, Saltzman & Wallman in March as a senior associate, after working as a real estate lawyer for firms in Milford and Stamford. When not representing clients before land-use boards, Bercury is active on the executive board of the Milford Land Trust and founder of the Milford Trick or Trot 5K for the Hungry and Homeless.


Q: Do you specialize in land-use permitting or also do some litigation work?

A: Before I went to law school, I worked at the attorney general’s office and did a summer clerkship at federal district court, and I always assumed I would go into litigation. I think a lot of people do. In my last year I took a real estate transactions class and said, “Wow – this is a whole area of law that I didn’t know about.” I really liked zoning.

Eventually I got a job in Milford, the town where I live, doing zoning work and representing big developers including Wal-Mart. I started doing some leasing work and commercial closings. If I had to choose I would do all zoning, but now I do a lot of transactional work: buying, leasing, dispositions. I try not to go to court. We have other people who do so.


Q: You were involved in a recent challenge of Milford’s moratorium on multifamily development. How was that resolved?

A: That was a really interesting project. I had a client proposing to do an affordable housing under Section 8-30G (the Connecticut affordable housing law). The town is supposed to approve these things unless there’s some glaring health or safety hazard. We came in with a pretty reasonable project for 22 units on 3 acres. And people were up in arms about it.

It was on a main road, it was undeveloped land, but it wasn’t pristine open space. There was a tremendous outcry, and we were not surprisingly denied. So we went before the land use court and were sure we’d be successful on the merits, but right after we filed, one local state senator slipped into this 1,500-page budget bill a provision that said in towns that meet certain requirements, the provisions of 8-30G don’t apply to pending lawsuits. It was so narrowly tailored, of the 169 (communities) in Connecticut, it applied to maybe one town. The judge decided it was moot.

We proceeded with the appeal before the Superior Court and we were successful. One of the neighbors petitioned to the appellate court, but we were able to come to an agreement. My client is currently building there.


Q: Which local communities are encouraging affordable or high-density housing?

A: In New Haven, the city owns some undeveloped land and will sell it to a developer. We have a big multi-phased project going on now (by RMS Cos. of Stamford) under an agreement where the city puts a restriction saying you have to have “X” number of affordable units. The city is going to ask for fair market value, but you have to do some affordable housing. In other towns, instead of proactively planning for what the housing needs are, they’re just reacting to developers, telling them no and trying to work it out.


Q: How are communities approaching permitting for medical marijuana dispensaries?

A: Medical marijuana has been kicking around for a while and while the state approved it, towns still have a certain amount of autonomy whether to allow it. Milford wrote regulations saying it’s a permitted use in a commercial zone. And there was a property located right off the highway in a commercial zone that a lot of people were looking at. The property owner owns another dispensary in the Hartford area. He went to the zoning official who looked at the regulations and said yes. He ended up buying the property.

When the word got out that he got a zoning permit, they revoked it. We appealed that decision but simultaneously filed a site plan application. It was next to a residential zone and that didn’t make it prohibited, but maybe the town should have thought about that. My client is a pharmacist and he doesn’t want his clients to have to travel far off the highway to these industrial zones to get their medicine.


Q: What major development proposals are you representing now?

A: There’s another phase of the RMS Cos. development that was approved by the zoning commission (in May). An old orphanage will be converted into residential units. In the city of New Haven, there’s a great need for new hotels and we’re starting to see applications for boutique hotels, renovations of older buildings for that use, and possibly a relatively large national chain hotel. You have a lot of visitors with the colleges in New Haven and you don’t have the (hotel room) inventory.


Bercury’s Top Five New England Summer Stops:

  1. The Beachcomber, Wellfleet, Massachusetts
  2. Bill’s Seafood, Westbrook
  3. The Place, Guilford
  4. Matunuck Oyster Bar, South Kingston, Rhode Island
  5. The Ocean Mist, Wakefield, Rhode Island