President Donald Trump’s life’s work consists of signing lucrative deals and then wriggling out of them when the details no longer suit his immediate self-interest. It’s an ethical Ponzi scheme that Trump has managed to pull off for 74 years now, but that’s a streak residents of Palm Beach, Florida, are trying to put an end to. The community that surrounds Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property put its foot down Tuesday in an attempt to block the future ex-president from moving into his private club full time after he leaves office. The Washington Post reports residents delivered a demand letter to the town of Palm Beach Tuesday morning stating that Trump signed away his right to live at the property as part of the terms of a three-decade-old agreement, signed by Trump himself, which allowed him to convert Mar-a-Lago from a private residence to a private club.
The terms of the agreement allowed Trump to develop the historical estate with significant limitations on how the property could be used. Now, Trump is essentially disregarding those agreements as he plots his post-presidential life at Mar-a-Lago. From the Post:
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.
In short, Trump agreed to a slew of development concessions in order to try to boost Mar-a-Lago’s bottom line. In the years since, Trump’s angered local residents with his willingness to skirt even the most basic principles of the agreement. Once he became president, the town allowed for some exceptions to the deal for security purposes, such as a helipad, but even then Trump tried to use the White House to wring out new concessions. In 2018, Trump tried to get Palm Beach to allow him to build a dock at the club on the basis that it was a Secret Service security requirement, before shifting the rationale to say that it was for private use. In addition to the 1993 agreement with Palm Beach, Trump “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,” according to the Post. “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.’ ”
Trump, like he’s always done, is poised to try to bulldoze his way out of these previous agreements and relocate to the club. In fact, Trump switched his official domicile in September 2019 from Trump Tower in Manhattan to Mar-a-Lago, a move that could technically be illegal. The demand letter delivered by the club’s Palm Beach neighbors is an attempt to get out ahead of the coming standoff and, the letter says, to “avoid an embarrassing situation” of having to evict a former president.