On the morning of January 20th, just hours before President Joe Biden was set to be sworn into office, Donald Trump departed the White House for the final time and flew to his new home of Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. He has since stayed there, refusing to testify before the Senate for his second impeachment trial.
Unfortunately for him though, not all of the residents of Palm Beach are keen on him making his resort a permanent home and have been pursuing legal action to restrict his stay.
It goes like this. Trump bought his Mar-a-Lago resort in 1985 from Marjorie Merriweather Post, the owner of General Foods, for US $10 million. The 126-room mansion was in a state of disrepair after her death in 1973 when she left it to the US government. The government returned it to her estate in 1981.
Trump spent millions renovating the place but, in the early ’90s, he hit a period of financial crisis as the real estate market that he worked in dropped and a number of his businesses failed.
That’s when he announced that he could no longer afford the US$3 million annual upkeep of the property. He told the surrounding town of Palm Beach that it was not fair that he alone should have to cover the costs since, in his eyes, he had done the town a favour by taking ownership of the deteriorating estate.
He suggested he would divide the property up into a number of smaller mansions to sell off which the locals rejected. Instead, he turned the place into the Mar-a-Lago Club, a 500-person private members club with a US$263,000 upfront initiation cost plus an annual $23,692 members fee.
As part of the deal made in 1993, he said members, including himself, would not stay for more than seven consecutive days and no more than 21 days total in a year. This is the rule that was cited in an attempt to oust Trump from Mar-a-Lago on Wednesday.
Last month, the town received a letter from attorney Reginald Stambaugh who represents an anonymous Mar-a-Lago neighbour who demanded that the town enforce the agreement’s residency clause – something they never did before Trump was president.
The neighbour has argued that Trump’s residency will decrease property values and he is not well-liked in the community. Apparently, Trump has clashed with the town over operations of the club as neighbours have made complaints about noise, traffic, and a massive car-park sized American flag that he chooses to fly on a 24-metre pole.
He put up the flag in 2006 without the proper permits and had to settle with the town after losing a legal dispute, giving US$100,000 to veteran charities and getting a shorter flag pole. Trump later mounted the pole on a hill so it would still be just as tall.
Free to Stay
At a town council meeting on Wednesday, the Palm Beach committee concluded that Trump is free to live at Mar-a-Lago in spite of the 1993 agreement violations. While he has and regularly does overstay his allotted time at the club, Trump has also had himself registered as an employee of the club, meaning he isn’t bound by that rule.
It looks like, for the time being, Trump will be staying put at Mar-a-Lago.