Mar-a-Lago neighbors say Trump forfeited right to live on estate once presidency ends

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PALM BEACH, Fla. – President Donald Trump and the first family should not expect to be welcomed to the neighborhood with open arms when they move from the White House to Mar-a-Lago – dubbed the Winter White House by the soon-to-be former president.

West Palm Beach attorney Reginald Stambaugh sent a letter to Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio and the Town Council on Tuesday laying out the legal reasons and security concerns that he said should bar Trump from living at his private club.

According to Stambaugh, Trump violated an agreement he entered into with the town after lengthy, contentious meetings in 1993 over his commitment to preserve the 18-acre estate if the town allowed him to turn Mar-a-Lago into a club.

It wasn't the only letter Coniglio received on the topic this week. A fax pocked with grammatical and spelling errors sent by an organization few knew anything about arrived Thursday expressing similar concerns.

"Neighbors of Mar-a-Lago, have a message for the outgoing commander in chief: We don't want you to be our neighbor and break our laws," read the opening salvo from the group calling itself the Palm Beach Committee.

President Donald Trump speaks with members of the armed forces via videoconference from the living room of Mar-a-Lago on Thanksgiving in Palm Beach, Fla., on Nov. 23, 2017.
President Donald Trump speaks with members of the armed forces via videoconference from the living room of Mar-a-Lago on Thanksgiving in Palm Beach, Fla., on Nov. 23, 2017.

"When Mr. Trump vacates D.C. the majority of town residents and your constituents; Do Not want Trump to erect a new home or take permanent residence at Mar-a-Lago Social Club," the committee said.

Coniglio said she had never heard of the committee, and the fax did not identify any members. It claims Trump lost the right to live at the estate when he entered into the agreement in 1993, and it raised the specter of fervent and controversial Trump supporters showing up in the neighborhood.

"Trump is not above the law where he can flip / flop the town charter, laws and signed agreements to suit his personal whim," the fax read. "We do not (want) Proud Boys, Skin Heads, Neo Nazi Crazies visiting Trump proposed new PB residence. We hope you agree!"

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Stambaugh sent a copy of his letter, first reported by The Washington Post, to the Secret Service, which has not revealed security plans for Mar-a-Lago once Trump's presidency ends.

The town of Palm Beach was leery of Trump when he negotiated to convert Mar-a-Lago into a club. A year earlier, he failed to convince the council to allow him to subdivide the property and build mini-mansions.

President Donald Trump takes off from Mar-a-Lago on Marine One in Palm Beach, Fla.
President Donald Trump takes off from Mar-a-Lago on Marine One in Palm Beach, Fla.

Under the agreement, the club's 10 guest suites could be used only by members and their guests for a maximum of three times a year and for no longer than seven days at a time. Those seven-day stays couldn’t be strung together consecutively.

There remains the question of whether Trump – as owner of the corporate entity that owns the club – should be considered a member or an owner. Trump purchased Mar-a-Lago in 1986 and lived at the estate during the season with his first wife, Ivana, and their children.

Trump and his attorney Paul Rampell presented Trump's plan to convert Mar-a-Lago at a Town Council meeting May 13, 1993. Rampell assured the council that Trump would no longer live at Mar-a-Lago.

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"Another question that's often asked to me is whether Mr. Trump will continue to live at Mar-a-Lago," Rampell said during the presentation. "No, except that he will be a member of the club, and therefore, will be entitled to the use of guest rooms."

Rampell's assurances did not make it into the agreement. There is no language about whether Trump – as owner – must abide by the rules about overnight stays that apply to members. Neither Rampell nor the Trump Organization returned a request for comment.

Though the agreement says "the land shall be used as a private social club" and the club must abide by the uses allowed and prohibited by the agreement, the only reference to using it as a private residence is if the club shuts down.

Trump's status and right to live at Mar-a-Lago have never been formally challenged.

"As everyone knows, President Trump is already in violation of the Use Agreement by using Mar-a-Lago in excess of the allotted time," Stambaugh wrote in his letter. "This violation (as well as others on record) will continue without Town intervention."

Stambaugh cited health concerns over a microwave security fence on the property, "which is known to cause permanent brain trauma and other debilitating injuries."

Stambaugh claimed a client, whom he did not identify in his letter, "exhibits symptoms of exposure." Stambaugh did not respond to a request for comment.

Stambaugh said neighbors are concerned about "significant devaluation" of their property because of Trump's visits to his club, some lasting nearly two weeks.

Trump has made more than 30 presidential visits to Mar-a-Lago. During those times, residents and their yard workers, pool cleaners and other staff have had to pass through security checkpoints to reach their homes.

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Mar-a-Lago neighbors complained when Trump requested a helipad be installed on the estate's back lawn. The Town Council agreed, provided it be used only for presidential business and be removed when Trump leaves office.

Trump butted heads with neighbors again in February 2019, when he sought approval to build a dock. The council shot down his request, but Mar-a-Lago renewed it in May, saying only Trump family members would use the dock. A few days later, the club withdrew its request.

None of the neighbors' complaints recognizes that Trump is himself a neighbor of Mar-a-Lago. Trump-affiliated businesses or family members own two homes north of Mar-a-Lago and an oceanfront estate on the north side of Mar-a-Lago's beach.

Trump and the first lady switched their legal residency from New York to Mar-a-Lago last year. There would probably be no obstacles preventing them from living in another nearby Trump property.

Coniglio said a formal request would have to made for the council to take up the matter.

"I think it's obvious we need to take a deeper dive into things and get some legal advice," Coniglio said, though the issue could "simply be a code enforcement violation."

"Like any issue in Palm Beach," she said, "it will take on a life of its own."

Contributing: Darrell Hofheinz

Contact Christine Stapleton at or on Twitter @StapletonPBPost

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Trump's Mar-a-Lago neighbors don't want him there after presidency