In a memo produced by the town’s attorney and posted on the town’s website, lawyer John “Skip” Randolph advised the town to look instead to its zoning ordinance, which permits only bona fide employees to reside in private clubs. Thus, if Trump is a “bona fide employee of the club,” town zoning would allow him to live on the premises, Randolph concluded.
Randolph recommended in the memo that the town council hear from interested parties, including Trump, and debate the issue further.
A letter to Randolph from Trump’s attorney last month argued that the former President is a bona fide employee of the resort and therefore is “clearly entitled to reside there.”
The town of Palm Beach will hear the review as part of its Town Council Meeting scheduled for next Tuesday, according to the agenda and supporting documents posted on the town’s website.
Trump bought the former estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1985 and turned it into a members-only club in 1993. To transform the private residence into a revenue-generating business, he had to agree to certain limitations, based on guidelines presented as deal-breakers from Palm Beach.
For example, there could be no more than 500 members, there were rules concerning parking and traffic, and club members could not spend more than seven consecutive days at Mar-a-Lago, or no more than three weeks total a year.
At the time, following several appearances at town council meetings by Trump and his lawyers to plead his case for approval on the evolution of the property, Trump assented to abiding by the 21-day rule. His signature is on the agreement.
However, Trump had been staying at Mar-a-Lago far more often while President.
The Trump Organization insisted in a statement to CNN in December, “There is no document or agreement in place that prohibits President Trump from using Mar-A-Lago as his residence.”
Randolph said the issue “hinges primarily on whether former President Trump is a bona fide employee of the Club.” In the two-page legal memo, Randolph writes that town zoning code for private clubs allows “a private club may provide living quarters for its bona fide employees only.” He added that the town code definition of employee “includes sole proprietors, partners, limited partners, corporate officers and the like.”
Randolph then concluded that “if he is a bona fide employee of the Club, absent a specific restriction prohibiting former President Trump from residing at the Club, it appears the Zoning Code permits him to reside at the Club.”
Randolph continued, “After entertaining all of the relevant presentations, the Town Council should deliberate on this matter and determine what action, if any, should be taken.”
“It’s a very dispirited place,” Laurence Leamer, historian and author of “Mar-a-Lago: Inside the Gates of Power at Donald Trump’s Presidential Palace,” told MSNBC earlier this month. He said members are “not concerned about politics and they said the food is no good.”
Leamer said he had spoken to a number of former members who “silently walked out” after Trump left office.
Permits issued for demolition of Mar-a-Lago helipad
A permit was issued Tuesday for the demolition of a helipad at Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago, according to city records.
Palm Beach doesn’t allow helipads but had allowed one to be constructed after several months of a contentious back-and-forth before the town’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The helipad, installed in 2017, was permitted to be used only while Trump was President and needed to be removed once he had left office. The helipad and Marine One allowed Trump to move quickly around town without getting stuck in traffic or causing a traffic jam.
This story has been updated with more background and additional developments.
CNN’s Kate Bennett, Caroline Kelly, Katelyn Polantz and Alexis Benveniste contributed to this report.
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