Sag Harbor Village’s newly appointed senior building inspector, Chris Talbot, was busy this week getting used to his new surroundings after 20 years with Southampton Village, including three years as the head of that village’s building department.
“There are so many historic houses that are well maintained,” he said of Sag Harbor. “It’s almost a New England feel with the type of houses here.” While Sag Harbor has succeeded in preserving many of its historic houses, Mr. Talbot said Southampton is “fighting that battle now.”
Mr. Talbot started his new position on August 30 and replaces James Esposito, who had been hired earlier this year and who was fired by the Village Board last month. The village has been seeking a permanent replacement for Thomas Preiato, the village’s longtime inspector, who moved over to East Hampton Village in January.
Mr. Talbot, who grew up in Mattituck, now lives with his wife and family in Cutchogue. He said he was getting used to a new commute that allows him to take the ferries to and from work. “The first day, I rode my motorcycle, just to gauge the ferry time,” he said. “The second day, I took my truck.” He said he plans to come by boat — he owns a Cobalt speedboat — from time to time during the summer months.
During his first week on the job, Mr. Talbot said he had already met with Jeanne Kane, the new chairwoman of the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review, as well as Val Florio, the chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, to get their take on the issues facing their boards. He said he looks forward to working with the public and guiding applicants through the village building code process.
Mr. Talbot has a long history in the building trades. After high school and a year at Suffolk County Community College, he changed directions and became a master plumber.
He worked for Bertsand Plumbing, a Riverhead company that specialized in new construction across Suffolk County. After several years, he got his own license and opened his own plumbing business, focusing on service work instead of new construction. After six years in business, he made the switch to civil service work.
Mr. Talbot said there are several differences between Southampton and Sag Harbor. Southampton, he said, is the largest commercial hub on the East End, and it has uses ranging from industrial to the large estate section near the ocean. But both face some of the same problems.
A critical one is the lack of affordable housing. He said Sag Harbor is fortunate to have a sewage treatment plant that could allow higher density housing to be built. Although there has been talk across the East End about allowing more accessory apartments to be developed, Mr. Talbot said he didn’t see enough people taking advantage of such an option to make a serious dent in the problem, noting that many people don’t want “someone living under the same roof.”
He said the solution might be in expanding the Community Preservation Fund to allow a portion to be used for affordable housing, an initiative that elected officials are currently discussing.
“There’s an awful lot of money in the CPF for land and water quality,” he said. “You can have all the open land in the world, but if you don’t have the people, you don’t have a community.”