Updated: December 17, 2020 20:33:20
Written by Maggie Haberman
President Donald Trump’s neighbors in Florida are trying to enforce a decades-old contract that Mar-a-Lago, his private social club, cannot be used as a full-time residence, as Trump suggested afterwards. leaving the White House.
Neighbors in Mar-a-Lago sent a letter to the city of Palm Beach and US intelligence on Tuesday complaining that Trump violated the 1993 agreement with the city that allowed him to convert the property into a club for make money.
“For the 1993 usage contract, Mar-a-Lago is a social club and no one can reside on the property,” wrote Reginald Stambaugh, a lawyer representing the DeMoss family, who own a property near Mar-a-Lago. .
“To avoid an embarrassing situation for everyone and to give the president time to make other accommodations in the area, we are confident that you will work with his team to remind them of the parameters of the usage agreement,” Stambaugh wrote. “Palm Beach has many lovely estates for sale and you can certainly find one that meets your needs.”
The letter came as Trump’s days in office are ending and he is moving forward with plans to move with his wife and son to Florida following the inauguration of his successor, President-elect Joe Biden, on January 20. The New York Times reported in 2018 that Trump had changed his domicile to Mar-a-Lago, partly for tax purposes. Almost immediately, city residents began to raise doubts about the legality of the move, given the deal the president made with the city decades ago.
Construction was done in the president’s residential neighborhoods at the club, where Trump is expected to spend the Christmas holidays and which Stambaugh has claimed already violates the usage agreement.
A White House spokesperson declined to comment on Stambaugh’s complaint, which was first reported by the Washington Post. The Mayor of Palm Beach and a spokesperson for the Trump Organization did not respond to emails seeking comment.
Glenn Zeitz, a New Jersey-based attorney who assists Stambaugh and is not paid by the DeMoss family, said the city has refused to enforce some aspects of the agreement in the past on several issues, including the number of days per year. where the president stayed there.
In other cases, Trump has been given leeway by the city due to legitimate security concerns. Among these was the addition of a helipad for Marine One, which will be removed after he leaves office.
“As president, I think they gave him some considerations that they felt was appropriate due to his status,” said Zeitz, who met Trump decades ago when representing a client whose ownership the then casino owner wanted. for an Atlantic City expansion.
Trump tried to do things like build a dock attached to his property that the deal prohibited, ostensibly for use by club members. That effort was blocked by the city, and then the president presented a revised effort claiming it was for private use for himself and the first lady. He withdrew the second dock petition after the 1993 usage agreement went public.
With the letter, Stambaugh hopes to push the city to clarify that Trump is violating the terms of his deal that allows him to convert the sprawling Mar-a-Lago property, once owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post, from a private residence into a club.
“The substantial tax breaks received by the president for this deal remain in effect, as does the usage agreement,” Stambaugh wrote. “Some press reports indicate that renovations have already started in Mar-a-Lago to make family housing more comfortable for full-time residency.”
Part of that usage agreement, which was revised by the Times, limits members’ stay time. It says there cannot be stays for “three non-consecutive seven-day periods by a member during the year”.
The club should also file affidavits to the city annually stating that at least 50% of its members live or work in Palm Beach and that the club has no more than 500 members.
Some of these reports have not been archived. And the club has seen a boom in the number of members joining in recent years, according to records reviewed by the Times, though it’s unclear whether they’ve replaced outgoing members.
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