The next-door neighbors of Mar-a-Lago, have a holiday message for the outgoing POTUS:
We don’t want you to be our neighbor.
According to The Washington Post,
That message was formally delivered yesterday morning in a demand letter delivered to the town of Palm Beach and also addressed to the U.S. Secret Service asserting that Trump lost his legal right to live at Mar-a-Lago because of an agreement he signed in the early 1990s when he converted the storied estate from his private residence to a private club. The legal maneuver could, at long last, force Palm Beach to publicly address whether Trump can make Mar-a-Lago his legal residence and home, as he has been expected to do, when he becomes an ex-president after the swearing-in of Joe Biden on Jan. 20.
This is awkward, to say the least. A former president would have to legally defend his choice of a place to live during his post-presidency. (This is the first of MANY legal troubles for Trump once he exits 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.)
It also could create a legal headache for Trump because he changed his official residence to Mar-a-Lago. Trump originally tried to register to vote in Florida using the White House in Washington as his address, which is not allowed under Florida law. He later changed the registration to the Mar-a-Lago address.
In the demand letter, obtained by The Washington Post, an attorney for the Mar-a-Lago neighbors says the town should notify Trump that he cannot use it as his residence. This would
“avoid an embarrassing situation”
Imagine Trump moves to the club and later has to be officially ordered to leave? The neighbors are the DeMoss family, which runs an international missionary foundation, so it will be hard to say they are awful people. (But you know he will.)
For years now neighbors have complained about blocked streets and traffic jams, caused by the Trump’s frequent trips to the club.
Glenn Zeitz, another nearby Palm Beach homeowner has joined the fight against Trump,
“There’s absolutely no legal theory under which he can use that property as both a residence and a club.
Basically he’s playing a dead hand. He’s not going to intimidate or bluff people because we’re going to be there.”
A Trump business organization spokesman who was not authorized to speak publicly about a legal issue,
“There is no document or agreement in place that prohibits President Trump from using Mar-a-Lago as his residence.”
The current residency controversy tracks back to a deal Trump cut in 1993 when his finances were foundering, and the cost of maintaining Mar-a-Lago was soaring into the multimillions each year.
Under the agreement, club members are banned from spending more than 21 days a year in the club’s guest suites and cannot stay there for any longer than seven consecutive days. Before the arrangement was sealed, an attorney for Trump assured the town council in a public meeting that he would not live at Mar-a-Lago.
At the time, the town’s leaders were wary of Trump because he had sued them after they blocked his attempt to subdivide the historic Mar-a-Lago property into multiple housing lots. Placing the limitations on lengths of stays assured that Trump’s property would remain a private club, as he had promised, rather than a residential hotel.
Documents obtained by The Post seem to suggest there may be gaps in Palm Beach’s enforcement of key provisions of the agreement that could affect Trump’s ability to live at the club. The Post says,
Each year, the club is required to report whether at least 50 percent of Mar-a-Lago’s members live or work in Palm Beach; that the club has fewer than 500 members; and that no one is using the guest suites more than 21 days a year. However, the town says it has no records of the reports for four of the past 20 years.
Trump has repeatedly attempted to change parts of his agreement. In 2018 he asked the town to waive a provision banning him from building a dock at the club, initially saying the Secret Service and local law enforcement officials needed the structure for his protection. The reasoning was later changed to say the dock was for the private use of the president and first lady Melania Trump. Neighbors feared that the dock would be used for rowdy booze cruises. Trump withdrew the dock request early this year — three days after a Washington Post report that unearthed the details of his 1993 agreement with the town.
Trump has gone to Mar-a-Lago at least 30 times during his term, and spent at least 130 days there.
Trump openly flouts the town agreement, saying on Mar-a-Lago’s website that he maintains private quarters there.
During his presidency, Palm Beach has shown deference on security issues, allowing a helipad that was expressly prohibited in his 1993 agreement. Once Trump leaves office, he will no longer have use of the helipad, as we reported.
Trump has signed a document deeding development rights for Mar-a-Lago to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a Washington-based, privately funded nonprofit organization that works to save historic sites around the country. As part of the National Trust deal, Trump agreed to “forever” relinquish his rights to develop Mar-a-Lago or to use it for
“any purpose other than club use.”
Trump’s neighbors are holding him to that agreement. Their letter, written by West Palm Beach attorney Reginald Stambaugh, includes a little shade,
“Palm Beach has many lovely estates for sale, and we are confident President Trump will find one which meets his needs.”
(Photo, Mar-a-lago website; via WaPo)