The deputy mayor and two-term trustee talks about why she chose not to run for re-election, what challenges she anticipates for the next village board and why she hopes to be the kind of attorney in private practice who looks out for the well being of the Sag Harbor community, as well as her clients.
It seemed like the decision not to seek another term on the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees was not one that came easily to you. What ultimately made you decide to step out of public service for the time being?
Food. It really became an economic decision for my family and I. I love the work I have been doing in the village, but at the same time, without a steady income, it does become impossible to live out here. My husband also brings in a steady income, but out here you can’t survive on just one and with the practice we needed to be able to take on work in the village. This wasn’t a decision I took lightly and I didn’t want to make it, but I was kind of forced into this situation.
You were let go from the East Hampton Town attorney’s office this year, along with your partner at Scarlato & Baldwin, Beth Baldwin. This obviously has a lot to do with the present course your life has taken. Why do you think you were let go, and do you see yourself serving as a municipal attorney in the future?
I think both Beth and I were let go for personal and political reasons not having anything to do with the quality of work we did, or anything else for that matter. I never did get a real answer, just that my services were not needed; so I really don’t know the reason.
Obviously, I love municipal work. I did nine years of work with the town and six years as a village board member. I think that experience lends to municipal service, but let’s see what happens in the future. Right now, I am just trying to focus on getting our business started.
What first brought you into public service?
I was on the zoning board of appeals and at the time there were a lot of applications coming through that were a little large and out of scale for the village; and to be honest, nothing in the code allowed the ZBA to make any real decisions in respect to those applications. They were what they were, and our regulations were really lax in terms of new construction and renovations. I saw there was a potential for things to escalate. The opportunity arose, and I got a call from now-mayor Brian Gilbride. My father actually spoke to him first at the fire house about it and said, ‘I think Tiffany might want to do that.’ So, thanks Dad. Brian called, and I asked the town board if they would mind and they didn’t, so off I went.
You have been one of the more active members of the board, with your legal background aiding the village in drafting legislation. Are there any outstanding projects you hope the board will continue to pursue in your absence?
At this point the [proposed] music permits and the accessory apartment [laws] are still out there and I am hoping to have changes handed in by the end of the month for [trustee] Robby Stein [who has co-authored the legislation], so I expect he will pick those up. As a trustee, I was sort of making an attempt to go through and update the village code chapter by chapter and my next project, which we are already in the process of, was to re-write the wetlands code. Inter-Science Research Associates [the village’s planning consultants] has finished a draft of the wetlands map. From there, we were going to re-write the code, and put in environmental restrictions the village code is still lacking. Hopefully, someone will take that project on.
What kind of environmental protections would you like to see put in place?
Setbacks to the wetlands, first and foremost. We did put some into the revised zoning code in anticipation of this re-write, but prior to that the village had no required setbacks from the wetlands and no way to delineate where wetlands are, except for on the [New York State Department of Environmental Conservation] map, which is outdated. We also wanted to streamline the process a little bit, get them going in an easier direction.
What other challenges do you see the village facing in the next two years?
I think one of the big issues facing Sag Harbor now is trying to keep our businesses going. They have obviously been hit hard by the economy and the village is taking action by the way of music permits, allowing outdoor seating and I think it will have to do everything it can to keep people coming into the village to keep our businesses flourishing. It was the intent of the code revision to keep things as they are, but you have to also allow for change. Times change, and the rules have to change along with them.
Do you see yourself pursuing elected office again?
Oh yeah. What that will be, I don’t know.
What are you going to do the evening of July 13, the first village board meeting in six years where you will not be a sitting trustee?
I may end up at the village board meeting in my first official appearance. But we will see, it is still a month away.