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John Boehnert is an attorney, writer, and speaker in real estate, real estate development, and environmental law, including coastal permitting, waterfront property rights, and public trust doctrine issues.*

John Boehnert has been involved in many of the major development projects in Rhode Island since 1980 as well as in most major real estate issues. Over the years, he has represented developers, energy companies, multi-national corporations, investors, lenders, non-profit corporations, and state and local governmental entities.  He has represented one of the world’s largest energy companies on environmental and real estate issues pertaining to the proposed sale and development of its environmentally-impacted waterfront property, and he has represented a national energy company in its federal consistency review filing in Rhode Island under the Coastal Zone Management Act in connection with the proposed development of an LNG facility.

He has also represented purchasers in conducting due diligence for the acquisition of coastal properties, and owners in the permitting and construction of new structures, or the substantial rehabilitation of existing structures, on coastal properties. His expertise includes structuring and obtaining permits for sophisticated real estate acquisitions, leasing and development projects, negotiating and obtaining permits for complex Brownfields redevelopment projects, and winning the most significant real estate property rights case before the Rhode Island Supreme Court in over a century. In that case, the court cleared title under the Public Trust Doctrine to millions of dollars of waterfront properties built on filled tidal land.  He also structured and negotiated the first major air rights development project in Providence, a hotel located in the air rights over a parking garage.  Mr. Boehnert drafted the Design and Development Regulations for the 77-acre Capital Center Special Development District abutting the State Capitol in Providence.  Those regulations governed the use, design and development of former rail yards and warehouses into a commercial, retail and residential district, which now is the home of the 1,400,000-square foot Providence Place Mall, hundreds of residential units, and hundreds of thousands of square feet of office buildings.

Mr. Boehnert authored the first book to address the legal issues involving ocean zoning, entitled Zoning the Oceans: The Next Big Step in Coastal Zone Management, published by the American Bar Association in 2013.

More recently, Mr. Boehnert authored the book Buying, Owning and Selling Rhode Island Waterfront and Water View Property, published by Greenwich Cove Press in 2016, which is a definitive guide to protecting property rights and investments in coastal property.

Additionally, Mr. Boehnert served as the editor of edited the volume A Practical Guide to Land Use Law in Rhode Island, published by Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education Inc. in June 2017, providing lawyers with a comprehensive guide to land use law in Rhode Island.

Mr. Boehnert has also published hundreds of articles, addressed national conferences on International Submerged Lands, International Coastal Zone Management, coastal permitting and coastal zone management, and land use law, as well as other professional groups on real estate and environmental law issues. He authored a chapter in a book on legal issues affecting the shopping center industry, and his article on the Public Trust Doctrine was published in the William and Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review. For years he authored a column in the Providence Business News on real estate and environmental issues, and he is an occasional contributor to the Providence Journal as well as the Providence Business News. He provides in-depth analysis of real estate, land use, and environmental law issues on his blog,, which is the only one of its kind in Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Bar Association presented Mr. Boehnert with an award at its 2012 annual meeting for the most significant legal article published in the past year in the Rhode Island Bar Journal. The article addressed complex issues of federal and state rights under the Coastal Zone Management Act’s federal consistency program.

Mr. Boehnert is certified as a mediator and arbitrator, and also provides consulting services for lawyers on sophisticated real estate and environmental projects.

He is listed in Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers, has held the highest rating in Martindale Hubble for well over a decade (i.e. AV Preeminent) when such peer ratings were actively applied and was designated Best Lawyers Providence Real Estate Law Lawyer of the Year twice in recent years, as unusual distinction.

Mr. Boehnert received his undergraduate degree summa cum laude from Boston University, attended the London School of Economics, and received his law degree cum laude from Georgetown University, where he served on the Law and Policy in International Business Law Journal.

He served as a Congressional aide in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, and he clerked for Judge John H. Pratt in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia.

Mr. Boehnert served two tours in the Army Infantry in Vietnam, where his awards included the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat, two Bronze Stars, a valorous unit award, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, awarded by the then-government of the Republic of South Vietnam.

He lives on the waterfront in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.


*The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law. The Court does not license or certify any lawyer as an expert or specialist in any field of practice.


  • Georgetown University, J.D., cum laude
    Law and Policy in International Business Law Journal
  • Boston University, B.S., summa cum laude
  • London School of Economics


  • Rhode Island Society of Environmental Professionals
  • Rhode Island Bar Association
    Environmental Law Committee
  • District of Columbia Bar Association
  • American Bar Association
    Estates, Trust and Real Estate
  • American Arbitration Association
    Commercial Panel
  • American Health Lawyers Association
    Alternative Dispute Resolution Panel
  • Rhode Island Bar Foundation
  • International Council of Shopping Centers
    Co-Chair, Government Affairs Task Force on Property Rights
  • Chicago Title Insurance Company Advisory Council

COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES (past and present)

  • Providence Foundation
    Board of Trustees
  • Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce
    Board of Directors, General Counsel and Executive Committee


  • Rhode Island
  • District of Columbia


  • Received the highest rating for legal ability and professional ethics since 1994 from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings (AV)
  • Named Best Lawyers Lawyer of the Year, Real Estate Law, Providence, Rhode Island  for 2014 and 2016
  • Listed in Best Lawyers in America since 2006 for real estate
  • Listed in Super Lawyers, 2021, for real estate
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