The town of Palm Beach’s attorney is backing former President Trump’s residency at Mar-a-Lago, arguing in a memorandum submitted to Town Council that there are no local codes preventing him from living permanently in his private club and golf resort.
In the memorandum submitted to Palm Beach Mayor Gail L. Coniglio and Town Council before a meeting scheduled next Tuesday, Feb. 9, town attorney John C. Randolph argued that the town zoning code allows Trump to live at the club if he is a bona fide employee.
It’s the first time town officials have publicly weighed in since residents, including Mar-a-Lago’s next-door neighbors, the DeMoss family, argued in a letter to the town and U.S. Secret Service in December that a 1993 agreement showed Trump had no legal right to reside at the club because it specifically bars guest stays from exceeding seven consecutive days and 21 days a year.
But Randolph noted that the same Declaration of Use Agreement signed more than 25 years ago “did not incorporate a direct prohibition on former President Trump residing at the club, the language of the agreement pertaining only to the members’ use of guest suites.”
“Because the agreement is silent in regard to a specific prohibition on Trump residing at the club, the town should look to its zoning code to determine whether there is any prohibition on former President Trump residing at the Mara-Lago Club,” Randolph wrote in the memorandum. The town code “prohibits living quarters within a club except for its bona fide employees.”
Randolph cited a letter penned by John Marion, an attorney representing Trump and the Mar-a-Lago Club, that claimed Trump, as the president and legal owner of Mar-A-Lago Club, LLC and as a corporate officer, oversees the property and “is, therefore, a bona fide employee within the express terms of the town’s zoning code.”
“lf he is a bona fide employee of the club, absent a specific restriction prohibiting former President Trump from residing at the club, it appears the zoning code permits him to reside at the club,” Randolph wrote. He recommended that the mayor and Town Council “hear presentations in regard to this matter from all interested parties, including, but not limited to, the neighbors to Mar-a-Lago, their representatives, representatives of former President Trump, the Mar-a-Lago Club and other interested parties.”
Mar-a-Lago Resort seen as Donald Trump is set to arrive after leaving office. (Cover Images via AP Images)
Town officials are expected to deliberate on the matter of Trump’s residency next week and decide what, if any, action to take.
Trump and former first lady Melania Trump changed their residency from New York City to Mar-a-Lago in 2019. His newly founded Office of the Former President is based in Palm Beach County. Despite the public squabbles, Trump performed well in November’s election among his neighbors – in Mar-a-Lago’s precinct, he got 62% of the vote.
Last month, the Trump Organization issued a statement, saying: “There is no document or agreement in place that prohibits President Trump from using Mar-A-Lago as his residence.” Trump owns two other homes near Mar-a-Lago.
Trump purchased Mar-a-Lago for $10 million in 1985 from the estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post, the owner of General Foods. The 126-room mansion had deteriorated after her death in 1973, when she left it to the U.S. government as a possible presidential vacation home. The government gave it back in 1981. After Trump bought it, he spent millions upgrading the property while living there part-time.
By the early 1990s, however, Trump was in financial distress, the Associated Press reported. Real estate prices dropped and several of his businesses flopped, including a New Jersey casino. He told the town he could no longer afford the $3 million annual upkeep and it was unfair that he shouldered the costs alone. He proposed subdividing the property and building mansions. The town rejected the proposal.
In 1993, Trump and the town agreed he could turn the estate into a private club. It would be limited to 500 members – the initiation fee is now $200,000 and annual dues are $14,000. For an additional charge, members can stay in a suite for up to seven consecutive days and 21 days a year, the agreement said. During his presidency, Trump spent more than 21 days a year there, including visits of about two weeks during the Christmas holidays, earning the club the nickname “Winter White House.”
Before he became president, Trump clashed frequently with the town and its mostly staid residents over the club’s operation. Neighbors complained about noise, traffic and a car lot-sized U.S. flag and its 80-foot pole Trump erected in 2006 without the proper permits. The two sides eventually settled: Trump got a shorter pole and his foundation gave $100,000 to veteran charities. Trump then put the pole on a mound so it would still rise to 80 feet.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.