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Trump's Mar-a-Lago residency deliberated by Palm Beach Town Council

Written by on February 9, 2021

Town officials in Palm Beach, Fla., heard oral arguments Tuesday morning on whether or not former President Donald Trump should be permitted to continue living at his Mar-a-Lago luxury club and golf resort.

The meeting, held virtually over Zoom beginning at 9:30 a.m., came hours before the second impeachment trial for Trump was to begin Tuesday in Washington, D.C., where Democratic House impeachment managers will frame Trump as fundamentally responsible for inciting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. 

TRUMP RESIDENCY AT MAR-A-LAGO BACKED BY PALM BEACH TOWN ATTORNEY 

In Palm Beach, council members heard town attorney John C. Randolph give a presentation on the 1993 Declaration of Use agreement between the town of Palm Beach and the Mar-a-Lago club, according to the meeting agenda published on the town website.

Randolph already appeared to have backed Trump’s residency last week, laying out his opinion in a written memorandum submitted to Palm Beach Mayor Gail L. Coniglio and Town Council before Tuesday’s meeting. Randolph argued in the memo that nothing within the town’s zoning codes prevents Trump from living at Mar-a-Lago if he is in fact a bona fide employee.

A letter also submitted to Town Council before the meeting Tuesday by John Marion, an attorney representing Trump and the Mar-a-Lago Club, 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.”

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. Under that agreement, members can stay in a suite for no more than seven consecutive days and 21 days a year – but there is no prohibition on employees living there.

TRUMP RESIDENCY AT MAR-A-LAGO UNDER PALM BEACH LEGAL REVIEW 

In December, the town of Palm Beach received a letter citing the agreement from an attorney representing a Mar-a-Lago neighbor, demanding it prevent Trump from living there. The unnamed neighbor believes Trump’s residency would decrease property values.

Trump moved into Mar-a-Lago on Jan. 20, the day he left office.

Before the deal was signed nearly 30 years ago, Paul Rampell, the lawyer representing Trump at that time, answered “no” when asked by council members if Trump intended to live at Mar-a-Lago, Randolph said in the memo. But the written agreement, which may take precedence, “is silent in regard to a specific prohibition on Trump residing at the club,” Randolph continued, explaining that the town code, “prohibits living quarters within a club except for its bona fide employees.”

“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 council members “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.”

Trump and former first lady Melania Trump changed their residency from New York City to Mar-a-Lago in 2019. The Trump Organization, the family’s business entity, has 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.

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Trump’s stays at Mar-a-Lago often exceeded seven consecutive days while he was in office, including visits of about two weeks during the Christmas holidays, earning the club the nickname “Winter White House.” His stays added up to well more than 21 days a year. 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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