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BOSTON-Roseland Property Co.’s plan to build a 585-unit residential complex at Pier One on the waterfront could be held up if the New Jersey-based company doesn’t work out a deal with the local pilots who guide large vessels through Boston Harbor and use the pier as its base of operations.

The issue is complicated by recent legislation that is awaiting Gov. Mitt Romney’s signature that Roseland and its partner, Sea Chain Marine LLC, will be protected from any potential legal challenges to the project’s Chapter 91 license from the Department of Environmental Protection. The bill raised concern among environmental groups that the developer would not feel compelled to compromise with the pilot’s group. In fact Jamy Buchanan Madeja, counsel for the pilots and owner of Buchanan & Associates tells GlobeSt.com that “we want to conclude our negotiations before the legislation becomes law.” But Madeja adds that, despite the new law, she believes she will still be able to successfully appeal any decisions she believes are unfair. The problem, she notes, is the “misperception” for Roseland that there is less pressure on them to cut a deal with the pilots and that they won’t have to “pay the piper.”

The company is still awaiting its final Chapter 91 license which will discuss how the developer has to protect pre-existing water users, which includes the pilots. According to Madeja, the draft of Chapter 91 conditions she just received provides generic protection without the specificity that she says would assure protection. “It provides protection, but it doesn’t say how,” she points out. “The details are in dispute.”

Madeja adds that the DEP have said they are interested in firming up the conditions so she is both “optimistic and a little concerned.”

The pilots would like a long-term lease that would enable them to lease the land for 95 years–the deal that Roseland currently has with the Massachusetts Port Authority. Madeja says that MassPort and Roseland want to give the pilots a 20-year lease which she says is not enough because in 20 years all the waterfront parcels will be developed leaving the pilots nowhere to go. Also, because the pilots’ rates are legislated, they cannot pay more on a lease without going to the legislature to request a pay hike. “Everyone agrees that Pier One is the best place for the pilots,” says Madeja. “It is common sense for [Roseland and Massport] to just cut a deal and be done with it. They will lose more in good will, the lending relationships and the time value than they will lose” if they make a deal.

Madeja says that if the pilots don’t get an enforceable deal, they will sue. According to Nancy Sterling, a spokesperson for Roseland, the deal with the pilots will not impact the start of their construction. She tells GlobeSt.com that the company is still negotiating with the pilots. “They are an important part of the development and we believe we will reach a resolution,” she says.

Madeja contends that a lawsuit could hold up the project. “We are not that far apart,” she adds. “I can’t understand why they don’t just close this properly. It’s not a productive way to do business for Massport or Roseland.”

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