The Christmas tree lot that has been a tradition at the Cutler Ridge United Methodist Church in Cutler Bay for 23 years has returned, although construction on Old Cutler Road and a loss of church property to the county has resulted in less space for it.
Tom McClary, a member of the church familiar with its history, explained why the tree lot is important to them.
“The tree lot pays us a set amount for setting up on our property,” McClary said. “The church uses that money to supplement our operating expenses and to support projects of the United Methodist Church in Florida and around the world. Due to the sagging economy and the loss of revenue to the tree lot from the road construction, we have had to reduce the amount that they pay us for the use of our property. I was pleased when they decided that they could still operate on the smaller piece of property by using a smaller tent.”
Located at the corner of Marlin Drive and Old Cutler Road, the church used to have more useable property in the past, and the current county road improvement project has further complicated things.
“The process began when we built our sanctuary in 1978,” McClary said. “Our original property line is defined as 35 feet from the center line of Old Cutler. In 1978, in order to get our permit, we had to cede an additional five feet to the county. The survey done in 1990 when we built our Fellowship Center shows the property line as 50 feet from the center line of Old Cutler, and there is a notation about that additional right of way to be granted. That, of course, is how the county gets more right of way without having to pay for it through imminent domain. They extort it as price for getting a building permit.”
McClary said that the recent road construction project has added a curbing, 20 feet of grass area and a six-foot sidewalk that brings them right to the edge of the 50-foot right of way. That reduced the space available for the Christmas tree lot.
“Prior to the sidewalk, we could still make use of the edge of the right of way, provided a certain setback from Old Cutler was maintained as specified in the permit,” McClary said.
Gloria Lowery, who has been bringing trees from her farm in North Carolina from the start and has many longtime followers who come every year for their trees, said she was glad to still be able to have them there at the church, even though now she must use a smaller tent.
“Santa’s Tree Farm began in 1990,” Lowery said. “We were open to see the effects of Andrew, and the gangs who were prevalent for a couple of years. Then we saw the area become Cutler Bay and watched as everything in the community became stable, the gangs were gone and everything is beginning to look beautiful.
“Our signature quote is, ‘Santa’s Tree Farm…because Santa never cuts a tree from our forests. He grows all his trees on a farm.’ His farms employ many people who help with the economy.”