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Southold Town takes Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm to court

The owners of Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm in Cutchogue received a lump of coal in their stockings Wednesday in the form of a temporary restraining order issued by a Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge. 

The ruling comes days after outside counsel for Southold Town filed a complaint arguing that the popular tree farm has been operating in violation of the town code, selling a majority of goods produced by outside vendors out of a retail building nearly three times the allowable size.

A code enforcement officer for the town stated in an affidavit that he issued summonses at the farm on three separate occasions in the past month and that the business declined to address the town’s concerns. In his statement, code enforcement officer Michael Chih said he estimated that more than 75 percent of the products being sold on the premises were produced by outside companies, including everything from papyrus cards and miniature villages to pickles and beef jerky. Town code requires that 60 percent of all goods sold at farm stands be produced by the farm operator.

Under the restraining order issued by Judge William Rebolini Wednesday, the farm must reduce the size of its nearly 9,000 square-foot retail operation to 3,000 square feet and it can no longer allow third-party vendors to sell merchandise at the site until the case can be heard Jan. 2. In its complaint, the town stated at least two other third-party vendors were promoting their presence selling goods at the farm.

Southold Town Attorney William Duffy said the town did not seek a closure of the farm stand, but rather requested that the business come into compliance.

“They really have expanded their retail area beyond what was permitted, so we’re just trying to get them to comply with the code,” he said. “That’s all we’re looking for.”

Anthony Palumbo, the attorney for the farm’s owners, said the business remains open and the owners are “looking forward to Christmas.”

“The town is certainly being reasonable and we assure that we’re going to sort this out quickly,” Mr. Palumbo said, declining to comment further on the ongoing litigation.

Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm is open April through January, according to the business’ website. In addition to Christmas trees and retail goods, the farm hosts visits with Santa. Mr. Duffy said those visits will be allowed to continue through the holiday.

Caption: A decorative Santa on the grounds of Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm in 2016. (Credit: Grant Parpan)