On Jan. 20, President-elect Joe Biden will move into the White House — and that means President Trump is going to have to find somewhere else to live. Since he changed his legal address from Trump Tower in New York City to his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., some have assumed that’s where he’ll go after leaving Washington.
He’s voted from that address in the most recent Florida primary and general election. Construction work and renovations are reportedly being done to expand the living quarters. And ABC News reported last week that members of his Secret Service detail have been asked if they’d like to relocate to the area.
There’s just one problem: Per an agreement with the town of Palm Beach, no one is actually allowed to live at Mar-a-Lago full time. Not even Donald Trump.
Trump first purchased the 126-room, 62,500-square-foot mansion and 17.5-acre estate as a home for $10 million in 1985. But when he found himself in some financial trouble in the early ’90s, Trump sought to divide the land into smaller properties.
Local officials rejected that plan, so he decided to convert it into a private club, promoting it as a historic property and charging membership fees instead of selling it off.
But that deal came with rules set forth by the town of Palm Beach, which Trump agreed to in a written contract. One of those rules is that none of its nearly 500 members is allowed to stay there for more than seven days at a time, or more than 21 days in a single calendar year.
This wasn’t really a problem for Trump prior to 2017. He still lived in New York, and Mar-a-Lago was a place for him to spend holidays with family, play a few rounds of golf or tennis, put in some face time with celebrities and VIPs and then go right back home.
But since becoming president, Trump has tested that 21-day limit. As of October 2019, he had spent at least 133 days at the so-called Winter White House while in office — which averages to about twice the limit per year. He’s hosted summits with international leaders, including then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and Chinese president Xi Jinping, entertained members and their guests, and even posed for pictures with newlyweds.
There are also local ordinances governing things like noise, traffic and use of the waterfront around Mar-a-Lago. The town has made exceptions for a temporary helipad, street closures and moorings for Secret Service boats for the president’s visits. But those rules are supposed to be enforced once Trump leaves office.
According to the Palm Beach Daily News, neighbors have complained that “noise and down draft” from the Marine One helicopter that transports Trump to and from the airport have been disruptive and ruined their landscaping. And the town council has already said the 50-foot, 8-inch-deep concrete helipad on the west lawn of the estate must be removed once the president leaves office.
It’s highly unlikely that the town of Palm Beach would serve an eviction notice if Trump does decide to live at Mar-a-Lago full time, but it could revoke the club’s operating license — meaning it would no longer be able to generate income. (Per Forbes, the club is valued at $160 million.)
So, what’s Trump going to do? He could fight the town of Palm Beach for the rights to live at the club full time. He could purchase something nearby. (There’s a six-bedroom home listed for $12 million just down the street.) Or Trump could simply live elsewhere — after all, there’s no shortage of other buildings with his name on them.
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