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Trump Mar-a-Lago residency backed by Palm Beach council president, but still no vote held

Written by on February 10, 2021

The town council president in Palm Beach, Fla., said during their meeting Tuesday that she agreed former President Donald Trump should be allowed to continue living at Mar-a-Lago in an owner’s suite, though it remains unclear whether the town council has reached a final conclusion on the matter or if the issue will be deliberated further.

The Palm Beach Town Council spent close to seven hours Tuesday considering issues important to the wealthy island community in South Florida: the availability of the coronavirus vaccine, revitalizing the downtown’s upscale shopping district, and even the durability of the Belgian tile being used on a new walking path and the danger posed by coconuts falling when palm trees get too tall.

But the last item on the agenda – discussing Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residency — took up no more than a half-hour of the council’s time at the meeting’s end, the Associated Press reported.

TRUMP’S MAR-A-LAGO RESIDENCY DELIBERATED BY PALM BEACH TOWN COUNCIL 

Town attorney Skip Randolph said there is nothing in the club’s 1993 agreement with Palm Beach that prohibits Trump from residing there. He and John Marion, an attorney representing Trump and the Mar-a-Lago Club, said the town zoning code permits clubs and resorts to provide on-site housing for their employees, and Trump, as Mar-a-Lago’s president, makes him a “bona fide employee.”

“This is a debate that I really think is silly,” Randolph said.

After listening to their 20-minute presentation, only two council members briefly spoke. One had a clarifying question for Marion, while Council President Margaret Zeidman said she agreed there was no legal reason forcing Trump’s eviction from the 17-acre property. 

“It seems there is nothing … that would prohibit him from living in the owner’s suite,” she said, according to the Orlando Sun-Sentinel.

But the five-member council ultimately took no action on the question, which was placed on the agenda because of neighbors’ complaints that Trump’s presence would hurt property values. The council did not hold a vote on the matter. 

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

Speaking with Fox News over the phone Wednesday, a representative for Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio’s office declined to comment when the town council might deliberate Trump’s Mar-a-Lago stay further, stressing that the matter was just “up for discussion” Tuesday. She said the full recording of the meeting will be posted on the Town of Palm Beach website either Wednesday afternoon or Thursday. 

Philip Johnston, an attorney representing a group of residents called Preserve Palm Beach, asked the council Tuesday that he be allowed to give a fuller presentation in April – though council members did not give him a response either way. 

Johnson said neighbors of the club fear Trump’s residency will turn Mar-a-Lago into “a permanent beacon for his more rabid, lawless supporters,” destroying the town’s “genteel” character.

The council meeting was held hours before the second impeachment trial began in Washington, D.C., where Democrats would are that Trump was responsible for inspiring the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Trump reportedly watched the proceedings on a television at Mar-A-Lago, a club member told WPEC Palm Beach.

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. Marion and Randolph argued that because Trump is a Mar-a-Lago employee, he is not covered by a provision of the agreement that restricts members to stays of no more than seven consecutive days and 21 days per year.

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

Residents previously argued that when he got permission to turn the 126-room mansion into a club 28 years ago, Trump’s attorney Paul Rampell promised council during a meeting that Trump did not intend to live at Mar-a-Lago. But Marion said that provision was left out of the final written agreement in exchange for Trump’s pledge to be financially responsible for preserving the property if the club fails.

Johnston warned that if Mar-a-Lago can offer residence to its employees, there is nothing to prevent Trump from circumventing the restrictions on members’ stays by making them all corporate officers.

“Does the council want Mar-a-Lago to be a multifamily residence?” Johnston asked.

Marion said Trump has been performing numerous duties since resuming his title as club president on Jan. 25 — five days after he left office and returned to the property, where he waved to cheering fans from his armored SUV 30 minutes before his term expired. His duties include overseeing the staff, suggesting improvements, greeting guests, and recruiting and approving new members, Marion said.

“There is no reason in the world that this body should ever determine that former President Trump shouldn’t reside at the club he owns,” Marion said. “He loves it there.”

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Marion also warned neighbors protesting Trump’s residency at Mar-a-Lago to be careful what they wish for, arguing that if by “the slightest” chance Trump gets booted from club, he would likely move into one of the other nearby homes he owns in Palm Beach and the U.S. Secret Service bubble that now resides behind Mar-a-Lago’s gates would be on their street.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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