Bill Taplin is trying to launch a seasonal water taxi between Newburyport and the Salisbury Reservation, and the meter has been running for several years without a supportive response from state officials.
Now Taplin is concerned that if permits don’t come soon, he won’t be able to run his proposed transportation livery service this season either.
“If I got approval soon, I might be able to save August,” said Taplin, a veteran of waterfront commerce. “I am prepared to order and build a boat to do it, but I am not going to take that risk if I don’t have the permits.”
He sold his last commercial vessel but says he is ready to order a $150,000 craft (with 18-inch draft) if he ever gets the green light.
Taplin’s name came up at a recent meeting of the Planning Board. Joseph Leone’s proposed 442-seat restaurant in the old Davis Auto Parts building was being discussed, and several skeptics say the restaurant would take up parking spots used for businesses such as commercial boating.
Taplin’s proposed water taxi has become one of the “what if” elements of the immediate future of the central waterfront.
Leone wants to develop a restaurant; the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority has a tentative vision to put shops, restaurants and about 30 to 35 condominiums on either side of the Firehouse; and owners of the Whale Watch and catamaran enterprises are counting on enough parking to serve the hundreds who come to the waterfront each weekend.
Taplin might be among the smallest players in the current maneuvering for state and local approvals, but he is not a newcomer to waterfront politics.
He captained the Yankee Clipper, a 49-foot tourist boat, for almost three decades. For the past half-dozen years, he ran an eco-tour boat, which brought guests up the marshes and river.