In November 2019, President Trump announced he was moving his permanent residence from his tower in Manhattan to his resort at Mar-a-Lago for reasons that seemed pretty straightforward: He was reluctantly coughing up millions in state and local taxes to declare residence on an island on which he is despised. On the island of Palm Beach, Florida, at least there is no state tax.
According to the Washington Post, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago neighbors delivered a demand letter to the town of Palm Beach on Tuesday contesting the president’s plan to live at the “winter White House” after he leaves the real one in January. This hyper-specific form of NIMBY-ism dates back to a 1993 deal Trump made with the town when he converted the historic estate into a private club. As the paper reports:
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 …
The 1993 Palm Beach agreement isn’t the only document that raises questions about whether Trump can legally live at Mar-a-Lago. He also 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.”
When it comes to enforcing zoning regulations in one of the nation’s wealthiest zip codes, expect the neighbors to play hardball. “There’s absolutely no legal theory under which he can use that property as both a residence and a club,” Glenn Zeitz, a nearby Palm Beach homeowner told the Post. “Basically he’s playing a dead hand. He’s not going to intimidate or bluff people because we’re going to be there.” In the past, neighbors have complained about traffic during Trump’s visits, as well as his refusals to comply with local codes, like the height limit for a big flagpole he installed.
As for the letter itself — sent to Trump via the Secret Service as well — the neighbors were at least kind enough to use the mob-adjacent language the president loves so much. The demand states that Trump should “avoid an embarrassing situation” of moving in after Joe Biden’s inauguration only to move out on the town’s orders. That’s a nice gilded estate you’ve got there, Mr. President. It’d be a shame if something happened so you couldn’t stay too long.